What is Asthma?
Asthma is a type of Chronic disease that starts in the airways and makes a person’s breathing difficult. Asthma can cause inflammation of one’s air passages, this causes narrowing of the airway that carries oxygen to the lungs.
Asthma can be a serious and even dangerous disease that affects up to 26 million Americans. There are three major factors of asthma:
- Airway Obstruction – When your breath normally there are banks of muscle in your airways that are relaxed and allows the air to move freely. However, people with asthma and other colds or diseases, cause the bands to tighten, less air is then flowing causing a person to feel shortness of breath and cause wheezing.
- Inflammation – People with asthma can have swollen/red bronchial tubes. Inflammation can cause long-term damage to your lungs. The best way to make sure that no damage is caused, you should see a doctor and get the proper treatment for your Asthma.
- Airway Irritability – Airways due to asthma causes them to be highly sensitive.
What Causes or Can Trigger Asthma?
Due to the sensitive airways caused by asthma different things within the environment can trigger asthma to worsen. Some of these triggers include:
- Infections – Sinusitis, colds, and the flu.
- Allergens in the air – pollens, mold, spores, pet dander and dust mites.
- Irritants – Strong odors, Perfumes, clean solutions, air pollution.
- Tobacco Smoke
- Weather – temperature, humidity, or chilly air
- Strong Emotions – anxiety, laughter, crying, or stress
- Medications – Ex. Aspirin allergies.
What are the Risk Factors for Increasing the Chances of Developing Asthma?
There are several factors that can increase your chance of developing asthma, some of these risk factors include:
- Inheritance – Someone that is blood-related in your family also has asthma.
- Having an allergic condition – Atopic dermatitis or allergic rhinitis (hay fever)
- Exposure to second-hand smoke
- Exposure to fumes or other pollution, chemicals and more.
What are the Early Symptoms of Asthma?
The early symptoms of asthma aren’t bad enough to interfere with your day to day activates, but should still be taken seriously. Recognizing these signs can help prevent the possibility of a full on asthma attack. Early warning signs of asthma include:
- Frequent cough
- Shortness of breath
- Feeling tired or weak when exercising
- Wheezing or coughing after physical activity
- Feeling tired, easily upset, grouchy, or moody
- Symptoms of a cold or allergies (sneezing, runny nose, cough, nasal congestion, sore throat, and headache)
- Trouble sleeping
If you are experiencing any of these symptoms you should see asthma and allergy specialist to get you on the right medicine to help the symptoms and make sure that these symptoms don’t worsen into an asthma attack. Asthma attacks can lead to the emergency room visit or even staying in the hospital for observation or to calm your attacks if they are frequent.
What are the Early Symptoms of an Asthma Attack?
An asthma attack is a condition where the band of muscle in your airways is triggered to tighten. This tightening is called bronchospasm. During an asthma attack, your airway will become swollen or inflamed and your airway will produce thinker than normal mucus, closing your airway even more.
Each of these factors – bronchospasm, inflammation, and mucus production, cause difficulty breathing, wheezing, coughing, shortness of breath. Other symptoms of an asthma attack include the following:
- Severe wheezing when breathing
- Coughing that won’t stop
- Very rapid breathing
- Chest pain/ pressure
- Tightened neck and chest muscles
- Difficulty talking
- Feelings of anxiety/panic
- Pale, sweaty face
- Blue lips or fingernails
Asthma Symptoms in Children
As many as 10% – 12% of children in America are affected by asthma. Asthma symptoms can start at any age, but for most children, they will have their first sign of asthma by the age of 5. Possible signs of asthma in a child include:
- Frequent coughing spells
- A chronic cough
- Less energy/ tired
- Rapid breathing
- Complaint of their chest “hurting”
- Wheezing when breathing.
- See-saw motions in the chest from labored breathing.
- Shortness of breath/ loss of breath
- Tightened neck and chest muscles
- Feelings of weakness
- Louder or faster than normal breathing. Newborns typically take 30 to 60 breaths a minute. Toddlers typically take 20 to 40 breaths a minute.
Asthma Symptoms in Adults
An average of 1 in 12 adults is being treated for asthma symptoms. Getting asthma later in life is often called “late-onset asthma” or “adult onset asthma”. Adults are often surprised when they find out that they have asthma later in life, however, it is not uncommon.
Due to asthma being life-threatening if untreated, it is important to see a doctor if you are experiencing any possible asthma signs.
What are the Complications of Asthma?
Some of the complications of asthma include the following:
- Symptoms that interfere with sleep, work or activities
- More than usual sick days from work or school during flare-ups
- Permanent narrowing of the bronchial tubes that affects breathing
- Emergency room visits and hospitalizations for severe asthma attacks
- Side effects of long-term use of medications.
When Should I See a Doctor if I Think I have Symptoms of Asthma?
If you start to notice that you have frequent coughing or wheezing that lasts more than a few days. Or even any other signs see a doctor right away. If you go untreated your symptoms can worsen and cause long-term lung damage.
How Can I Prevent Asthma Attacks?
Unfortunately, there is no way to prevent asthma, but by working with your doctor and staying on track with the treatment plan that the doctor has given you, you can control your asthma attacks.
- Follow your asthma action plan – with your doctor, plan a detailed plan with your medications and managing an oncoming asthma attack.
- Get vaccinated for influenza and pneumonia – staying current with all your vaccinations that prevent you from getting the flu or pneumonia, will help with triggering asthma flare-ups.
- Identify and avoid asthma triggers – Find out what causes or worsens your asthma, and take the necessary steps to avoid your triggers.
- Monitor your breathing – learn to recognize warning signs of wheezing, slight cough or shortness of breath.
- Identify and treat attacks early – once you start to feel an attack, act fast in treating it, this way you will be less likely to have a severe attack.
- Take your medication as prescribed – just because you feel your improving, never miss your medications without talking to your doctor first.
- Pay attention to increasing “quick-relief” inhaler use – if you find that your relying on your inhaler more than usual then your asthma isn’t under control. Talk to your doctor about adjusting your treatment plan.
6 types of asthma and how they’re treated
There are many types of asthma, and treatment depends on which of the main 6 types of asthma you may have. Your doctor will perform tests to find out what treatment for your type of asthma is best for you. The distinct types of asthma include:
- Allergic Asthma – This type of asthma happens when an allergy sets off an asthma flare-up
- Asthma without Allergies – Some people experience asthma that is triggered by an upper respiratory infection like a cold or flu. This type of asthma occurs over a brief period of about 10-14 days.
- Aspirin Exacerbated Respiratory Disease (AERD) – This is a type of asthma that is triggered when someone takes aspirin.
- Exercise-Induced Asthma – This is when physical activity or exercise causes coughing, difficulty breathing, and chest tightness.
- Cough Variant – is asthma that is characterized by a dry hacking cough.
- Occupational Asthma – When a person with asthma works in a position where they work with items that trigger their asthma.
If you are experiencing any signs of asthma, make sure to call your allergy and asthma professional Dr. Thomas Chacko of Atlanta Georgia.