About 25 million Americans have asthma. asthma is an inflammatory disease that impacts the lungs’ bronchial tubes, making it difficult for them to carry air. During an asthma attack, the muscles surrounding the airways tighten as the airway linings grow narrow. The mucus cells that line the airways also increase, blocking air passages.
As the most common chronic illness among children, it’s important to understand the symptoms and how to manage them. In severe cases, asthma attacks are fatal. Learning how to prevent severe asthma attacks and potential triggers can be the difference between life and death.
Common Asthma Symptoms
There are various forms of asthma. Depending on which type you have, you’ll experience certain symptoms. The most common form is bronchial asthma. In most cases, you’ll wheeze and make whistling sounds while breathing. It’s also common for asthma to cause chest tightness, fatigue, anxiousness, and even trouble speaking.
Other forms of asthma include childhood, adult-onset, and allergic and nonallergic asthma. Of course, childhood asthma occurs in children. If you have adult-onset asthma, you won’t experience symptoms until you’re twenty years old.
Allergic asthma occurs when your body is triggered by allergens. This is usually seasonal depending on when you normally experience allergic reactions. Typical allergens include food, pollen, insect bites, and dander.
Similar to allergic asthma, nonallergic asthma is triggered by irritants. These, however, aren’t allergic reactions. Nonallergic asthma occurs from inhaling burning wood, cigarette smoke, certain perfumes, and other environmental elements. You can also trigger asthma symptoms from exercising, your job, or certain medications.
Doctors don’t use a one-size fits all diagnosis method. Instead, they use a series of tests to determine if you have asthma. Oftentimes, they’ll take family history into account. If your family has a history of breathing conditions, be sure to speak with your healthcare provider to ensure a proper diagnosis.
In addition to reviewing your family history, doctors give you physical exams. They’ll listen to your breathing patterns and observe your skin for allergic reactions. PFTs, or pulmonary function tests, are only used to diagnose patients aged five and older. Testing younger patients can result in false test readings. Instead of using a PFT, patients under five are likely to receive asthma medication and render a diagnosis based on their reaction.
After testing, your doctor will classify the severity of your asthma based on a number of categories. Oftentimes, people receive an intermittent diagnosis. Intermittent asthma symptoms are mild and occur between twice a week and twice a month.
Mild persistent symptoms occur more than twice a week. Moderate persistent symptoms happen daily but not every night. Severe persistent symptoms occur around the clock, making daily activities difficult or minimal.
Asthma Management and Treatment Options
There are a number of ways to keep asthma symptoms at bay. Once diagnosed, you’ll undergo treatment from three categories including breathing techniques, quick-acting treatments, and long-term control options. Your treatment journey depends on the severity of your asthma.
Breathing techniques teach you how to allow more oxygen into your airways. As your lung capacity increases, the severity of your asthma decreases. You do these treatments with a doctor or occupational therapist.
Quick-acting relief treatments are used to help you breathe during asthma attacks. A popular Bronchodilator is a rescue inhaler that works within minutes to relax your airway muscles. During an attack, the victim must sit upright and take between two and six pumps of their medication.
After administering the first round of medication, wait twenty minutes for results. If symptoms persist, administer a second round of medication. If that fails, you’ll need emergency treatment immediately. Constant need for quick relief medications may be a sign you need long-term medication.
Long-term asthma medication is taken everyday for severe asthma. These include anti-inflammatories, long-acting bronchodilators, and biologic therapy drugs. Once your symptoms progress into asthma attacks, extended periods of these episodes can be fatal. Asthma attacks are indications of you struggling to breathe.
Asthma attacks oftentimes pass on their own. In severe cases where you cannot breathe for long periods, immediately seek emergency care.
There are a number of ways to keep symptoms between attacks under control. The severity of your symptoms will decrease if you:
- Make healthy lifestyle choices. Be sure to eat a balanced diet and exercise regularly. Ashtma symptoms worsen in overweight and obese patients. Avoid food allergens to minimize attack risks.
- Keep stress levels under control. Stress triggers asthma and makes attacks harder to control.
- Quit doing drugs. Drugs like cigarettes produce smoke that irritate symptoms even further.
- Avoid triggers. If certain smells or irritants consistently trigger attacks, avoid them as often as possible.
Although asthma doesn’t have an official cure, it’s important to stay ahead of managing your symptoms. Be sure to take care of your health by eating healthy foods, exercising, and avoid triggers. These preventative care methods keep symptoms at bay and minimize the severity of your asthma symptoms.
In extreme cases, preventative care is insufficient. If you’re having an asthma attack, use quick-acting relief methods like an inhaler to allow oxygen into your airways. After properly administering quick-acting medication without results, seek emergency care before symptoms become fatal.
Be sure to find a doctor that specializes in asthma treatments as soon as possible. Catching asthma earlier makes controlling its symptoms much easier.