How to prevent asthma attacks. Learn in detail about types of asthma, symptoms and signs of asthma attack and preventing and treatment of asthma.
Asthma is a chronic lung disease that causes inflammation and narrowing of airways thus making breathing difficult.
Asthmatic attacks may be as a result of allergic reactions or genetic disorders and has far reaching consequences if not treated and managed properly.
Since Asthma is a long term disease, its prevention is critical and this discussion will help you understand how it can be prevented, treated and managed.
Types of Asthma and Their Causes
The following are the most common types suffered by majority of people all over the world.
Pollen, pet dander, mold, dust mites and roaches are some of the airborne substances that can worsen asthma symptoms by triggering flare ups.When they get into contact with your immune system, a substance called immunoglobulin is released.
Too much of this substance is dangerous as it is likely to cause swelling and narrowing of the lung airways resulting into breathing difficulties. This may in turn trigger an attack.
Exercise Induced Asthma
It is triggered by strenuous exercise that narrows lung airways. During and after the exercise, you may experience shortness of breath, coughing and wheezing.
This is because as you exercise, you inhale either cold or dry air which reacts with linings of the lung and cause airflow obstruction due to the inflammation of the airways.
With proper management of asthma, exercise is still possible without being exposed to the symptoms.
Exposure to certain chemicals, smoke or dusts in a work place can induce asthma. The symptoms tends to worsen during working days but may be less serious during off days. When inhaled, they cause irritation which in turn leads to an asthma attack.
According to American Academy of Allergy Asthma and Immunology, it is the most common of lung- related diseases in developed countries, with United States having about 15% of reported cases.
Nocturnal (Nighttime) Asthma
Nocturnal asthma has higher chances of occurring at night thus reduces the quality of sleep. Sometimes, its symptoms may not be detected during the day but during the night, between 2 and 4 a.m you may experience short breath or nocturnal wheezing.
The major causes are not yet known but most studies show that possible causes may include; being in a reclining position, cooling of the airways and changes in bronchial function as as a result of sleep.
Also known as chronic cough, this type of asthma is characterized by dry, non productive cough and is common in young kids.
Its persistence may lead to development of classic asthma, whose symptoms are wheezing and shortness of breath. It can occur during the day or at night and lasts between six to eight weeks, or more.
Studies show that most incidences are reported with people living in the northern part of United States who have less exposure to sun and vitamin D levels.
Symptoms of Asthma
Knowing the signs and symptoms of asthma is crucial in its management because they help in determining the next course of action before damages occur.
Early warning signs occur just before the start of attack. They are not severe but their early detection can help prevent and manage the actual attack. These include:
- Shortness of breath
- Changes in lung function
- Feeling weak when exercising
- Sore throat
- Nasal congestion
- Frequent cough during the night
- Having frequent troubles with sleep
Signs of Asthma Attack
When an asthma attack occurs, there is inflammation of the lining the airways and more mucus is produced by the cells lining the airways. Most common symptoms of attack include but not limited to the following:
- Severe chest pains
- Retractions – tightened chest and neck muscles
- Uncontrolled and persistent coughing
- Severe wheezing when breathing
- Blue lips and, or fingernails
It is important that you consult your doctor or seek medical attention whenever you experience two or more of such symptoms in order to avoid more complications brought about by the attack.
Prevention and Treatment of Asthma
There is no permanent cure of asthma. However, proper management and control can make you live with it without stress.
It is also advisable that you work closely with your doctor, identify and treat any condition that can interfere with its appropriate management.
Follow Your Asthma Action Plan
This is a scheduled daily treatment and medication plan created by your doctor. It includes the right medicine to take, time to take your medicine, the right dose and also when to see a doctor for further checkup.
Avoid Things That Can Worsen the Condition
If you are suffering from allergy related asthma, you are advised to avoid exposure to asthma triggers that can worsen your condition. Try as much as possible to prevent contact with substances like chemicals, dust and pet animals.
Limit the Frequency of Physical Exercise and Number of Outdoor Activities
If at all you cannot avoid being exposed to these allergens, your doctor may recommend allergy shots so that you can continue with your daily activities without exposing yourself to more risks.
It is up to your doctor to decide which medicines are best for you. A number of factors may be used to arrive at this decision including age, and symptoms.
Long-term medications reduce inflammation in the airways while quick relief inhalers help in opening swollen airways that cause breathing problems.
They can be taken in pill form or through inhalers, which ensure that drugs in form of gases or fine mist gets into direct contact with the lungs.
According to National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, the following are some of the drugs recommended for long term management of chronic asthma:
- Cromolyn. Is taken using a device called nebulizer and goes directly into the lungs. It helps in preventing inflammation of airways.
- Omalizumab. This is an anti-allergy medicine and is administered as an injection once or twice a month. It prevents the body from reacting to allergens such as dust mites.
- Inhaled Corticosteroids. These are the most effective and preferred medicine for asthma management. They help reduce inflammation and swelling which makes airways sensitive to inhaled substances.
Mayo clinic recommends the following drugs for quick relief during the attack or before exercise:
- Short-acting beta agonists. They are taken using either inhaler or nebulizer and help ease symptoms during attack. They include albuterol (ProAir HFA, Ventolin HFA) and levalbuterol (Xopenex).
- Ipratropium . The medicine acts quickly and immediately relaxes your airways. It is mostly used for chronic bronchitis but is of more help during asthma attacks.
- Oral and intravenous corticosteroids. They relieve airway inflammation which results from severe asthma. When used for a long time they may have side effects hence recommended for short term use only.
This treatment is for severe asthma that does not respond to corticosteroids or other long term medications. It works by heating the airways in the lungs, smoothing inside airways muscles thus making breathing easier hence reduces possibility of attacks.
Going for regular check ups as may be recommended by your doctor helps him decide whether you should continue with the same medication or if there is need of change.
Whenever you visit your doctor, you should be very open on your condition and answer his questions correctly as this will make him assess your situation and make proper decisions.
Summary – Prevention of Asthma
Asthma is a dangerous disease which has long term effects but you can comfortably manage and live with it. It is important that you know the early and actual symptoms of asthma so that you are not caught unawares.
Note that all medications should be taken under strict prescription by your doctor. This is because there are some drugs like aspirin and ibuprofen which have side effects for asthmatics and can worsen your condition. This is also true in case of cough medicines as well as natural herbs.
Always contact your doctor in case you are not sure of any symptom and never assume that things will work themselves out. Learn basic first aid for asthma and never run out of prescribed drugs.