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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
If someone is suspected of experiencing an asthma attack it is important to act quickly. People suffering asthma attacks can lose consciousness quickly making it more difficult to administer their medication. Follow these important key steps: 1. Comfort the Individual- Difficulty breathing can be extremely frightening and can cause the sufferer to go into shock, which is why acting quickly and offering reassurance is vital. Help the person get into a comfortable position for breathing and monitor their temperature to make sure they are not becoming too hot or too cold, which are both indicators of shock. 2. Assist with Medicine- The majority of the time people suffering an asthma attack have had one before so they know what needs to happen. For young children make sure parents provide directions on how to respond to their child’s asthma attacks. 3. Asthma Attacks with No Medication- In some rare cases a person may suffer an asthma attack and may not have been previously diagnosed with asthma. If this is the case it is usually a sign of a milder form of asthma since it has never previously manifested. Follow the same procedures in step one and help position them for comfortable breathing and monitor for shock. 4. Call for Help- If, after the administration of proper medication, the individual’s symptoms do not improve call 911.
So you’ve come to grips you have asthma, and now you’ve decided to heed the advice of the “asthma experts” and get your body in shape. Now you’re wondering, What are the best exercises for people with asthma?.
If you have asthma, exercise is even more important. It strengthens your lung muscles, which improves lung function. It strengthens your heart which makes you less winded with exertion. Over time, the more you exercise the more tolerant your heart and lungs become to the effects of exertion.
However, many of us have our limitations. We have to pick exercises that work best for people with asthma. So, listed here are six exercises that all asthmatics can participate in… -Swimming: Way back in the 1980s I was told this was the best exercise for asthmatics. It’s good because the air around pools is moist and warm, and less likely to trigger asthma. -Team sports:This would include activities such as Baseball, Football or Volleyball. You’ll only need to run while the ball is in play, yet you can still get a good workout. -Martial Arts: This activity is generally done indoors, and the short movements are enough to get you in good shape, build muscle tone, and may also help you develop a sound mind and body. -Yoga:Another activity that is generally done indoors, and also helps to relax your mind. -Biking: If the weather is right, this is a great way to get in shape. You can also get a stationary bike for your home. -Walking:This is safe in any environment.
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