Symptoms and Best Treatment for Asthma
Table of Contents
Asthma causes repeated periods of wheezing (which are like whistling when breathing), tightness in the chest, difficulty in breathing and coughing. Cough often occurs at night or in the early morning hours. The majority of people affected by Asthma, who comply with the appropriate treatment, can lead a normal life, but if they leave the treatment, asthma can cause permanent damage to the respiratory tract. On very rare occasions a severe asthma attack can be fatal.
Asthma is one of the most common chronic diseases and will be with you for life. In the US there are about 25 million people living with asthma. Although it cannot be cured, it is possible to control it to reduce and prevent attacks. This disease attacks around four million people in Spain of which 500,000 are children. It usually begins in childhood in 80% of cases but may debut for the first time at any age. If you have asthma, your airways will become irritated and inflamed. As a result:
- They narrow.
- They produce more mucus.
- This makes the flow of air into your lungs more difficult.
Symptoms of Asthma
The obvious symptoms of asthma are shortness of breath, squealing or wheezing when breathing, tightness in the chest and coughing during the night or early in the morning. Although it occurs more frequently in children, there are also adults who suffer from it.
When a person suffers from asthma, it means that the disease is present to him/her all the time, but he/she will suffer from asthma attacks only when something is affecting his/her lungs.
It is believed that a person who has a relative with asthma is more prone to this disease, but in most cases, it is not known for sure what the factors that cause asthma are or how it can be cured.
However, there are a number of possible agents that can trigger an attack: air pollutants, house dust mites, pets, mold, strenuous physical exercise, some medications, adverse weather conditions such as storms, humidity high, or subzero temperatures, and some foods or additives.
In addition, some intense emotional states can cause hyperventilation and asthma attacks.
It can be controlled if the sufferer recognizes the warning signs of an attack if he avoids contact with the things that may originate from it and follows the doctor’s recommendations.
If you have asthma, you can learn to control it and avoid symptoms such as panting or coughing, you can feel better, rest well and have a better quality of life. In addition, you can participate in physical and sports activities.
In a nutshell, Asthma symptoms can be mild, moderate or severe and include:
- Difficulty breathing
- Sensation of tightness in the chest
These symptoms tend to be variable and can stop and start again. They can often get worse at night.
The Causes of Asthma
The cause of asthma is not always clear. However, there are often factors that can trigger the symptoms. The most common reactions include:
- Respiratory infections like, cold or flu.
- Irritations caused by dust, cigarettes and various fumes or vapors.
- Allergies to pollen, medicines, animals, house dust mites or certain food products especially preservatives and dyes.
- Exercise, especially in cold or dry environments.
- Emotions like, very loud laughter or shouting can cause symptoms, stress accentuates.
- Certain medicines can also cause asthma.
In children, asthma is more common in boys than in girls, but in adults, women are more likely to have asthma. Asthma often occurs in families. If you smoke during pregnancy, your baby will be more likely to have asthma. If you have children and you smoke, your children are more likely to have it. Premature or low birth weight babies are also more likely to develop asthma.
Best Treatment for Asthma
Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and explore you. You will probably also ask about your medical history and will ask you questions about some factors that may have caused your symptoms. Your doctor can do one or more of the following tests to confirm the diagnosis.
The maximum expiratory flow measurement: This test measures the speed at which air is expelled from your lungs.
Spirometry: This test also measures the speed of air flow as well as how much air flows; this test provides detailed information about the maximum flow and the functioning of your lungs.
Chest x-ray: This test primary goal is to rule out any other lung disease.
Allergy skin tests: By this test, you will find out if you are allergic to certain substances.
In children under the age of five, the diagnosis can only be made by seeing if they respond to asthma treatments.
Best Treatment for Asthma
There is no curative treatment for asthma. However, the treatments available are used to help control the symptoms. Your therapeutic plan should be individualized, combining medications and controlling your asthma in the best way with prevention and hygiene measures.
Inhalers contain powder or gas that propels the correct dose of the anti-asthmatic medication when you inhale it. The medication is inhaled into your respiratory tract. You will have to use your inhaler correctly to function properly, so seek advice from your trusted doctor. There are two basic types of inhalers in medicine used to treat asthma:
Relievers or rescue: to treat symptoms acutely.
Preventive: to help prevent your symptoms.
You should use painkillers when your asthma symptoms occur. These can be short or slow-acting. Short-acting painkillers (known as bronchodilators) contain medicines such as Salbutamol (eg: Ventolin) and Terbutaline (eg: Bricanil) that work to widen your airways and quickly relieve your symptoms.
If you are given a preventive, you should use it every day – even if you do not have symptoms.
Preventives usually contain a steroid medicine, such as Beclometasone (eg: Qvar) or Fluticasone (eg: Flixotide) that work to reduce inflammation of your airways. This can go up to 14 days, for prevention medicines, to work, but once they take effect, you will not need to use your calming inhaler at all.
A slow-acting pain reliever can be added to your treatment if your symptoms are not controlled with regular steroid (the preventive) and the occasional use of a short-acting sedative. Slow-acting pain relievers contain medicines such as Salmeterol (eg: Severent) or Formoterol (eg, Oxis). Often these medications are combined with steroid inhalers like Symbicort (eg: Seretide).
If you use a propelled gas inhaler, you can also use a spacer. Spacers are devices that can help you use your inhaler correctly and are particularly useful in children – small children as young as three can learn to use an inhaler with a spacer, while for infants and very young children a mask can be more appropriate and practical. A spacer is a long tube that is held in the inhaler. You suck from a nozzle that goes to the end of the tube.
It is easy to use because it allows activating the inhaler and then inhaling in two separate phases. The use of a spacer also reduces the risk of having a sore throat by using a steroid inhaler. When used correctly they can be as effective as nebulizers in the treatment of an acute asthma attack.
Nebulizers make a mist of water and the medicine for asthma that you inhale. These can help deliver more of the medicine exactly where it’s needed. This is particularly important if you have a severe asthma attack and you require urgent asthma treatment in the hospital or at home. However, if you use a separator with your asthma medicines, it can be as effective as a nebulizer in the treatment of most asthma attacks. If your child has asthma, ask your doctor if nebulizer may or may not be suitable for your kid.
If you have symptoms of severe asthma, your family doctor may prescribe a type of steroid tablet such as Prednisolone and in many cases, your doctor may refer you to the Pulmonologist. There are other treatments available for asthma, such as pills and inhalers if standard treatments are not convenient for you. These include Montelukast (Singular) or Zafirlukast (Accolate).
What to do if you have an asthma attack?
If you have an asthma attack you should follow the following steps:
- Take your bronchodilator treatment immediately, preferably with a spacer.
- Sit down (do not lie down) and try to relax.
- Wait five to ten minutes. If there is no improvement, repeat an inspiration from your bronchodilator treatment, every minute for five minutes until your symptoms disappear.
- If your symptoms do not disappear, you should call your doctor or an ambulance, but continue to take your bronchodilator, preferably with a spacer, every few minutes, until the requested help arrives.
- If you go to the hospital, take your asthma treatments with you.
- Make sure you see your doctor first, so he or she can review your treatment.
Living With Asthma
Medicines are only part of your treatment for asthma. You will also have to deal with the things that raise your symptoms. Keep a diary to record something that causes your asthma – this can help you discover a model. The use of a maximum flow-meter to monitor your lung function may also help. If you suddenly have low situations in a certain condition (for example at the end of a workday, after exercise or after contact with an animal) this may indicate irritation. Quitting smoking is good for your health and will improve your asthma symptoms. With good management and proper treatment, most people with asthma lead completely normal lives.
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