Asthma and Asthma Attacks: Learning to Deal with Your Asthma!

 

What is Asthma?

Asthma, sometimes called bronchial asthma or reactive airway disorder, is a chronic respiratory disease marked by narrowing of the airways, causing limited air to flow. It results in coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath, and chest tightness. People with asthma have inflamed lung airways. These airways become more swollen and emit extra mucus when triggered by certain factors such as allergies, colds, air pollutants, stress, excessive exercise, and more.

For some people, asthma is just a minor recurring disorder that can be treated with simple medications and treatments. However, most people do not seem to know that asthma is a life-threatening condition affecting approximately 7.1 million adolescents under 18 years old, according to the American Lung Association (2014), and 3,345 deaths were reported in the year 2011.

Bronchial Asthma

What Causes Asthma?

Researchers have not yet proven what causes the ailment. However, some predictions state that asthma began from genetic and environmental factors arising to bronchial complications. These factors include:

  • Allergy inheritance, widely known as atopy
  • Asthmatic parents
  • Respiratory inflammations at birth
  • Exposure to viral infections during childhood when the immune system is still developing
Asthma Attack

Certain factors triggering asthma attack include:

  • Exercising too much, called exercise-induced bronchoconstriction (EIB) or exercise-induced asthma (EIA)
  • Contact to allergens called allergic asthma
  • Inhalation of certain air pollutants such as dust, fumes, and gases, called occupational asthma
  • Medicines
  • Viral respiratory infections
  • Constant change in temperature

What Are the Sign and Symptoms of Asthma?

According to some research, symptoms of asthma may differ from person to person. Thus, treating your asthma attack may vary from other’s way of treating it.

Some common signs and symptoms include:

  • Sibilant rhonchi, or known as wheezing. This is the most common type. Wheezing is the coarse and continuous whistling sound in the respiratory airway due to narrow air passageway.
  • Consistent coughing. Coughing can be categorized as dry or wet. Wet coughing is productive because it emits the phlegm and mucus produced in the lungs. However, it is difficult to manage consistent dry cough that is due from allergic reactions and air pollutants.
  • Chest pain and tightness. It is characterized by the inability of air to move in and out of the lungs due to narrow airway and produced mucus.
  • Breathing problems. Patients with asthma can have difficulties in breathing suddenly and unexpectedly.
  • Sleeping difficulties. When attacked suddenly, patients get troubles with sleeping due to persistent coughing and chest tightening.
Asthma symptoms

How Asthma Is Diagnosed?

Without proper medication and treatment, asthmatic patients will suffer from sudden asthma attacks their whole life. It is best to consult with certified doctors and specialists regarding your condition to refrain from these unexpected nuisances. They will thoroughly diagnose you through previous medical check-ups, family health background, simple breathing tests, and some examinations.

Lung Function Test
One such effective lung test is referred to as spirometry. Your doctor will be asking you to breathe in as much as you can and then seal your lips with the spirometer’s mouthpiece. After doing so, you will be asked to exhale as powerful and as quick as you can until there is no more air remaining. This test will run continuously so as to provide them with enough and precise results. It is to know the current condition of your lungs and how well it is working.

Allergy Testing
Furthermore, doctors may as well conduct allergy testing to patients. It is to help you avoid certain chemicals or ingredients that can trigger an allergic response in your asthma. The test could run through skin or blood. It is more efficient to conduct skin testing because it is less expensive but more reliable and fast.

Allergy Testing

Bronchoprovocation Testing
Bronchoprovocation testing includes several lung examinations after exposure to allergens to allow airflow obstruction. The specialist will provide you with certain inhalants, cold air test, exercise, and other related asthma-causing agents. This test is measured by spirometer to examine whether or not your airways are hyperresponsive. Hyperresponsive airways is a state where your bronchial airways can be easily triggered by certain environmental factors. However, this test is not recommended to all patients with asthma. Possible risks of an asthma attack may arise, and could be dangerous.

Other Tests
An x-ray or electrocardiogram (ECG) test to find out other possible diseases or conditions besides asthma that may be causing the symptoms. These diseases include bronchiectasis, reflux disease, sinusitis, congestive heart failure, aspiration, and more.

What Treatments Are Available For Asthma?

Asthma symptoms are life time conditions. However, good management and treatments are observed to minimize the frequency of asthma attacks. Proper medications include taking prescribed medicines as directed and avoiding certain allergens that cause sudden attack. With correct maintenance and control, you will be able to:

  • Prevent problematic conditions including chest pain and wheezing
  • Lessen the necessity for first-aid actions
  • Maintain healthy lungs
  • Retain normal physical activities
  • Good sleep
  • Minimize asthma attacks

Related Video: KHAN – Asthma Treatments

In order to control the occurrence of asthma flare-ups, you may want to consider:

Taking Prescribed Medications
Prescribed medications should regularly be taken and include corticosteroids. Sometimes inhalants contain combinations of corticosteroids and long-acting beta-agonist or LABA. These LABA ingredients aid clearing the bronchiole passageway for easy breathing. These LABAs should not be taken solely and without proper prescriptions from the doctor. They may cause more risks for your health.

First-aid medications are taken by asthma patients to regulate the flow of air and to maintain passageways fast enough to normalize the breathing of the patient. These are used at sudden times of asthma flare-up, and may be consumed before rigid works if recommended. These are called short-acting beta-agonist (SABAs). It is greatly inadvisable for patients to replace quick-acting medications with the prescribed regular medication.

Refraining From Allergens
Allergy tests are taken to find out what chemicals or ingredients you are allergic to. When you already know where your asthma triggers, refrain from consuming them.
Too many activities can cause asthma to trigger. These shouldn’t be stopped. Physical activities such as exercising can aid to maintain a healthy lifestyle. Talk to your doctor concerning medications for these daily activities.

There are times when certain allergens are inevitable. If for example, you are allergic to pollutants and you work most of your time outdoors, there is a need to consult with a specialist. He may provide you certain allergy shots that can minimize the allergic reaction. These shots won’t cure your asthma.

Having Regular Check-ups
After your first asthma check-up, you should consider visiting your doctor at least twice a month. When controlled, you can reduce the frequency of your check-up to twice or thrice a year. These consistent check-ups can help doctors track the asthma level of control. The goal of having regular check-ups is to minimize and lessen treatments and medication.

What Precautions and Self Care are needed?

Asthma prevention is a waste of time. However, you can lessen and reduce the frequency of your sudden asthma attacks with:

  • Good healthy lifestyle
  • Proper knowledge of your asthma and ways on how to control it
  • Effective action planning to reduce asthma attack occurrences
  • Regular asthma evaluation from the experts
  • Moderate physical activities

Conclusion

Do not wait for your asthma to worsen. Consult your most trusted doctors now and understand what causes your asthma and how to control it. Proper medication and treatments are duly recommended to minimize asthma attacks. This can as well provide you with the healthier body for a healthier lifestyle.

References:

  • http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/asthma
  • http://www.aaaai.org/conditions-and-treatments/asthma.aspx
  • http://asthma.about.com/od/adultasthma/a/art_aa_brochall.htm
  • http://www.lung.org/lung-disease/asthma/resources/facts-and-figures/asthma-children-fact-sheet.html
 
 
Author

Expert Author : Dr. Ahmed Zayed (Consumer Health Digest)

Dr. Ahmed Zayed Helmy holds a baccalaureate of Medicine and Surgery. He has completed his degree in 2011 at the University of Alexandria, Egypt. Dr. Ahmed believes in providing knowledgeable information to readers. Other than his passion for writing, currently he is working as a Plastic surgeon and is doing his masters at Ain shams University.