Asthma is an eminently controllable illness. Indeed, for most sufferers, control is so effective that it amounts to a virtual cure. But asthma is not curable in the same way as, say, a bacterial pneumonia; it never entirely goes away. Also, no one cure would ever suffice. It is becoming increasingly clear that there many types of asthma–and they differ greatly in their presentation and genesis. For example, asthma that presents as a chronic cough, the “cough variant of asthma,” appears to be very different from the life-threatening variety, which results in extreme respiratory failure and sometimes death.
Nevertheless, the sine qua non of asthma–as we understand it today–is the increased sensitivity of the airways to many different agents. These agents include respiratory viruses (common cold virus), pollutants (ozone and cigarette smoke), airborne allergens (animal dander, pollens and molds) and exercise, especially in a cold and dry environment. These agents, called triggers, induce an inflammatory reaction in the airways that, in turn, results in the common symptoms of cough, wheezing, increased mucus production and shortness of breath. Successful control of asthma entails controlling the inflammation in the airways and reversing the symptoms before they get out of hand. The greatest advances in controlling asthma may be the change in physicians’ attitudes toward using preventive medications, as well as attempts to make home rescue plans more aggressive and self-sufficient. The availability of selective and potent medications has made such changes possible. By avoiding known triggers in the environment, such as cigarette smoke, dust mites, roach antigens and dander from warm-blooded pets like cats and dogs, patients can help minimize airway inflammation. Also, newer, tighter and more energy-efficient homes, forced-air heating and wall-to-wall carpeting all contribute to higher levels of indoor triggers.
One in 12 Americans have asthma, according to new statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. If you’re one of them – or if a family member is – you should be doing all you can to avoid the things that can trigger an asthma attack. Triggers vary from person to person, but keep clicking to see eight common ones… -Tobacco smoke. People with asthma shouldn’t smoke, obviously. In addition, they should avoid exposure to secondhand smoke. -Dust mites. Dust mites are in just about everyone’s home, and they can cause big trouble for asthmatics. To reduce exposure to the mites, use mattress and pillowcase covers. Don’t use down-filled pillows, quilts, or comforters. And remove stuffed animals and clutter from bedrooms. -Air pollution. Car exhaust, industrial pollutants, and other things that foul the air outside can trigger asthma attacks. So pay attention to air quality forecasts. -Cockroaches. To limit exposure to asthma attack-causing roaches and their dander, keep your home scrupulously free of crumbs and other food sources. -Pets. Furry pets can cause big problems for asthma sufferers. Best to find them a new home. If that’s not in the cards, the animal should at least be regularly bathed and trimmed – and kept out of the asthmatic’s bedroom. Frequent vacuuming and damp-mopping can help too. -Mold. To keep airborne mold particles to a minimum, keep humidity in the home between 35 and 50 percent (in hot, humid climates, an air conditioner or dehumidifier might be necessary). Fix water leaks. They can promote the growth of mold behind walls and under floors. -Infections. Flu, colds, and other respiratory infections can trigger an attack. -Exercise. Strenuous physical exercise might be good for your heart and waistline – but not so good for your breathing.
During an asthma attack, also called an asthma exacerbation, your airways become swollen and inflamed. The muscles around the airways contract, causing your breathing (bronchial) tubes to narrow.
During an asthma attack, you may cough, wheeze and have trouble breathing. An asthma attack may be minor, with symptoms that get better with prompt home treatment, or it may be more serious. A severe asthma attack that doesn’t improve with home treatment can become a life-threatening emergency. The key to stopping an asthma attack is recognizing and treating an asthma flare-up early. Follow the treatment plan you worked out with your doctor ahead of time. This plan should include what to do when your asthma starts getting worse, and how to deal with an asthma attack in progress. When to seek emergency medical treatment?
Seek medical attention right away if you have signs or symptoms of a serious asthma attack, which include: -Severe breathlessness or wheezing, especially at night or in the early morning -The inability to speak more than short phrases due to shortness of breath -Having to strain your chest muscles to breathe -Low peak flow readings when you use a peak flow meter
There is no once-and-for-all cure. However, about half of the children who develop asthma grow out of it by the time they are adults.
For many adults, asthma is variable with some good spells and some spells that are not so good. Some people are worse in the winter months, and some worse in the hay fever season. Although not curable, asthma is treatable. Stepping up the treatment for a while during bad spells will often control symptoms.
Some other general points about asthma: It is vital that you learn how to use your inhalers correctly. In some people, symptoms persist simply because they do not use their inhaler properly, and the drug from the inhaler does not get into the airways properly. See your practice nurse or doctor if you are not sure if you are using your inhaler properly.
See a doctor or nurse if symptoms are not fully controlled, or if they are getting worse. For example, if: -A night-time cough or wheeze is troublesome. -Sport is being affected by symptoms. -Your peak flow readings are lower than normal. -You need a reliever inhaler more often than usual.
An adjustment in inhaler timings or doses may control these symptoms.
An extraordinary percentage of asthma sufferers do not seem to know how to breathe well. They have a tendency of breathing through their mouths, instead of their noses. Breathing through the mouth actually causes the constriction of blood vessels, and increases the chances of lung infections, due to the lack of nasal filtering. This constriction can cause the sufferer to require even more oxygen, in a snowballing reaction. The type of breathing exercises which are practiced in Karate are ideal for asthma sufferers to gradually increase their lung capacity. To do this, one must focus on breathing slowly but deeply through the nose only, and out through the mouth slowly. A maximum breath should be taken in during inhalation, and then after a brief pause, some effort should be made to force slightly more air in. This air should be held for about 2 seconds before slowly exhaling as much as possible, and then the process is repeated. This technique of breathing deeper (yet more slowly) should be employed whenever there is physical exertion. Through practice, a person will become trained to breathe more slowly and deeply, and this exercise will actually increase the air capacity of the lungs.