While some symptoms of asthma, like wheezing, are obvious, a diagnosis of asthma is not always clear cut, especially if they don’t occur when patients are with their doctors, and involve trials of lung function and tests for allergies. But one new test could possibly diagnose asthma with a single drop of blood.
In the study, researchers found that neutrophils, a type of white blood cell, of asthmatics move more slowly than the cells of those without asthma. The scientists have created a micro-fluidic, handheld device that can test how quickly these neutrophils migrate toward the source of inflammation; these white blood cells move toward wounds in the body, for example, and help start the healing process. But neutrophils of asthmatics are sluggish. Sucks to your ass-mar, neutros.
Previously it was impractical to use neutrophils, as it required a fair amount of blood, according to a statement from the University of Wisconsin, from which some of the researchers hail. But the new device, which is made of cheap plastic, can detect the speed at which the white blood cells are moving, and then automatically come up with a diagnosis. “The device can sort neutrophils from a drop of whole blood within minutes, and was used in a clinical setting to characterize asthmatic and non-asthmatic patients,” the researchers wrote in the study, published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. If the device works, it could have wide application. The CDC says the number of Americans diagnosed with asthma increased by 4.3 million from 2001 to 2009, and the condition now affects more than 300 million people worldwide.
You may wonder what allergies and asthma have in common besides making you miserable. A lot, as it turns out. Allergies and asthma often occur together.
The same substances that trigger your hay fever symptoms may also cause asthma signs and symptoms, such as shortness of breath, wheezing and chest tightness. This is called allergic asthma or allergy-induced asthma. Certain substances, such as pollen, dust mites and pet dander, are common triggers. In some people, skin or food allergies can cause asthma symptoms.
James T C Li, M.D., Ph.D., a Mayo Clinic allergy specialist, answers questions about the link between allergies and asthma. How does an allergic reaction cause asthma symptoms?
An allergic response occurs when immune system proteins (antibodies) mistakenly identify a harmless substance, such as tree pollen, as an invader. In an attempt to protect your body from the substance, antibodies bind to the allergen. The chemicals released by your immune system lead to allergy signs and symptoms, such as nasal congestion, runny nose, itchy eyes or skin reactions. For some people, this same reaction also affects the lungs and airways, leading to asthma symptoms.
A cold or the flu can trigger an asthma attack. Here’s why — and how to keep your sneeze from turning into a wheeze.
Respiratory infections, such as colds and the flu, are one of the most common causes of asthma flare-ups, especially in young children. A stuffy nose, sore throat, cough, fever, or other signs and symptoms caused by a cold or flu (influenza) virus can be a nuisance. But if you have asthma, even a minor respiratory infection can cause major problems. Asthma signs and symptoms, such as wheezing and chest tightness, may not respond as well to regular asthma medications. Also, asthma symptoms caused by a respiratory infection may last for several days to weeks.
There’s no sure way to keep yourself or your child from getting a cold or the flu. But taking steps to avoid getting sick — and taking the right steps when you do — can help.
Preventing colds and the flu
Take these steps to help you avoid getting sick: -Get an annual flu shot unless your doctor recommends against it. Most adults and children older than 6 months old should get a flu vaccination every year. -Ask your doctor if you need a pneumonia vaccination. Most people need to get this vaccination only one time, but in some cases a booster shot is needed. -Avoid contact with anyone who’s sick. Germs that cause respiratory infections are easily passed from person to person. -Wash your hands often. This kills the germs that can cause respiratory infections. Carry a bottle of hand sanitizer to kill germs while you’re on the go. -Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth. These are the points where germs that can make you sick enter your body. -Stay in shape. Regular exercise may help you avoid getting sick.
An allergy is when the body’s immune system overreacts to a substance that is normally harmless to most people. These substances are also known as ‘allergens’. Being exposed to an allergen may cause irritation or swelling in areas of the body such as the nose, eyes, lungs, air passages and skin.
A severe food allergy reaction is known as anaphylaxis and can be life-threatening. Anaphylaxis is potentially fatal: Anaphylactic shock, or anaphylaxis, is an extreme allergic reaction that can be fatal without prompt medical treatment. A life-saving injection of adrenaline is required to prevent permanent injury or death. The onset of symptoms may occur suddenly (within five to 15 minutes) or steadily get worse over time.
Some of the symptoms of anaphylactic shock include: itchy palms of the hands and soles of the feet feeling warm and tingly a strange taste in the mouth swelling of the face dizziness trouble breathing such as choking unconsciousness.
Our existence depends on breath and an acute asthma attack can make it almost impossible to breathe. No wonder these attacks are so scary for both the affected person and for onlookers.Knowing the basics of asthma treatment is essential when trying to help someone experiencing an attack.
Maybe you are having dinner with a friend and all of a sudden, he or she looks panic stricken and gasps for breath.
Do you know how to deal with this situation? If you are able to provide the right asthma treatment, it might possibly save someone’s life. How to Help Someone Having an Asthma Attack: 1-During a bout of asthma, patients find it easier to breathe while sitting up than lying down. So help them get into a comfortable sitting position. 2-Most asthma patients know what they need to do to deal with an attack. So it is best to ask them. Ask if they have an inhaler and where it is. If they don’t have one, ask them if you should call for help. Many asthma patients carry not only an inhaler, but a written instruction card as well. 3-Help them use the inhaler. An inhaler is designed to deliver a specific dose of asthma medication. The medication relaxes the patient’s airways and helps restore normal breathing. 4-Once you’ve given medication, observe the patient for several minutes. Is it getting easier for him to breathe? 5-If it appears that they are not responding to the medication within ten minutes, call an ambulance. And continue to deliver about four puffs of medication every five minutes while waiting for the ambulance. The medication will help prevent the asthma attack from getting worse even if it doesn’t seem to provide immediate relief. 6-Stay calm throughout the episode. This will help the patient remain calm as well. If they panic, it will worsen the asthma attack and make it far more difficult for them to breathe. So talk to the person calmly, to reinforce the feeling that everything is under control. This is vitally important.
Although asthma symptoms are controllable, a cure for asthma has remained elusive. Preventive treatment, however, should minimize the difficulty an individual experiences with asthma, and allow a normal, active lifestyle.
When should a person see an allergist?
If an individual is having difficulty breathing or is coughing or wheezing, an allergist can help determine the cause of the condition and provide treatment that controls or eliminates the symptoms. Individuals should see an allergist if: Breathing difficulties are interfering with daily activities Breathing problems are decreasing the quality of their life The warning signs of asthma, are present. These include:
-Shortness of breath
-Wheezing or coughing, especially at night or after exercise
-Tightness in the chest
-Frequent attacks of breathlessness, despite previous
-Diagnosis and treatment for asthma
With the arrival of winter, seasonal allergic rhinitis (hay fever) and asthma sufferers can breathe relief as most outdoor allergens disappear until spring. But holiday gatherings and spending more time indoors exposes many people to different allergen triggers. Food Allergies During the Holidays
Food plays a central role in many events. If you have a food allergy, these functions can be difficult to navigate. Be sure to ask about the ingredients used to make each dish. Be aware that cross-contamination can occur during preparation. If you think the foods served pose too much risk, or if you just don’t feel comfortable eating foods provided by others, you don’t have to. Other Holiday Triggers Holiday decorations, travel and stress can all present challenges for people with allergies and asthma. Here are some of the most common triggers to be on the lookout for: -Does your Christmas tree make you sneeze or cause shortness of breath? It’s unlikely that you are allergic to the tree itself, but the fragrance may be irritating. Some trees may also be home to microscopic mold spores that trigger asthma or allergies, causing symptoms like sneezing or an itchy nose. . -Follow directions carefully when spraying artificial snow or flocking. Inhaling these sprays can irritate your lungs and trigger asthma symptoms. -If you leave your pet behind when traveling for the holidays, you may experience allergy or asthma symptoms on your return home.
Exercise is a common trigger for asthma and may cause symptoms in 80-90% of asthmatics. Cold dry winter air can also make breathing difficult for asthmatics. Shortness of breath, wheezing, cough or chest tightness may result. The symptoms can occur during, just after or several hours after exercise. Here are a few exercise tips for asthmatics during the winter season. Avoid strenuous exercise in cold dry air, as cooling and drying of the bronchial airways can trigger an asthma attack. Avoid winter sports, such as skiing, snowboarding, or ice skating, especially if your asthma is not properly controlled. Use your bronchodilator inhalers, such as albuterol, 20 minutes prior to exercise. Keep your inhalers warm in order to avoid a cold aerosol spray. Be sure to “warm-up” and “cool-down” after strenuous exercise. When exercising in cold air, wear a scarf or facemask over the nose and mouth to warm the air you are breathing. Be sure to drink plenty of liquids before and after exercise to prevent drying of the airways. Exercise indoors when outdoor temperatures drop. The best year-round exercise for asthmatics is swimming in an indoor heated pool.