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Asthma: Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis And Treatment

asthma facts

Asthma is a condition in which your airways narrow and swells and produce extra mucus, making breathing difficult and trigger coughing, wheezing and shortness of breath. It is a chronic condition that causes inflammation and narrowing of the bronchial tubes, the passageways that allow air to enter and leave the lungs

If you repeatedly experience shortness of breath or hear a whistling or wheezy sound in your chest when you breathe, you may have asthma.

For some people, asthma is a minor nuisance, but for others, it can be a major problem that interferes with daily activities and may lead to a life-threatening attack.

Asthma symptoms affect an estimated 26 million Americans. It is also one of the leading causes of work and school absences.

Causes

Normally, with every breath we take, air goes through our nose and down into our throat, into our airways, eventually making it to our lungs. There are lots of small air passages in our lungs that help deliver oxygen from the air into our bloodstream.

No single cause has been identified for asthma, but researchers believe that the breathing condition is caused by a variety of factors that include:

  • Genetics: if a parent has asthma, you’re more likely to develop it too.
  • History of viral infections
  • Hygiene: it is argued that babies, who aren’t exposed to enough bacteria in their early months and years, develop weak immune systems that don’t become strong enough to fight off asthma and other conditions.
  • Allergen exposure: frequent contact with possible allergens and irritants may increase one’s risk of developing asthma.

Certain conditions and environments may also trigger symptoms of asthma. Such triggers include:

  • Illness such as the flu and pneumonia can trigger asthma attacks.
  • Exercise involving increased movement may make breathing more difficult.
  • Irritants in the air, such as chemical fumes, strong odors, and smoke.
  • Allergens like animal dander, dust mites, and pollen are just a few examples of allergens that can trigger symptoms.
  • Extreme weather conditions such as very high humidity or low temperatures may trigger asthma.
  • Emotional reactions like shouting, laughing, and crying may trigger an attack.

Symptoms of Asthma

Asthma symptoms occur when the lining of your airways swell and the muscles around them tighten, causing mucus to fill the airways, and reducing the amount of air that can pass through.

Asthma signs and symptoms vary from person to person, and include:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest tightness
  • Chest pain
  • Trouble sleeping caused by coughing or wheezing
  • A wheezing sound when exhaling (a common sign of asthma in children)
  • Coughing that may be worsened by a respiratory virus, such as a cold or the flu

The need to use a quick-relief inhaler more often is a signs that your asthma is probably worsening.asthma

For some people, asthma signs and symptoms flare up in certain situations. For example:

  • Exercise-induced asthma may be worsened when the air is cold and dry
  • Occupational asthma, triggered by workplace irritants such as chemical fumes, or gases.
  • Allergy-induced asthma, triggered by airborne substances, such as pollen, mold spores, etc..

Treatment Of Asthma

Effective treatment of allergic asthma includes identifying and avoiding allergens that trigger symptoms, using drug therapies and developing an action plan in case of severe attacks.

Treatments for asthma can include breathing exercises, rescue or first aid treatments, and long-term asthma control medications.

The right treatment or combination of treatments for you may depend on the type of asthma you have, your age, and your triggers.

Breathing Exercises

These exercises can help you get more air into and out of your lungs, and over time, may help increase lung capacity and cut down on severe asthma symptoms.

Rescue Or First Aid Treatments

These are medications that should only be used in the event of an asthma attack, as they provide quick relief to help you breathe again. Examples include rescue inhalers and nebulizers (used with a medicine that needs to be inhaled deep into the lungs).

Bronchodilators work to relax the tightened muscles in your lung, and anti-inflammatories target inflammation in your lungs that could be preventing your breathing

Furthermore, if someone you know is having an asthma attack, you should sit them upright and assist them in using their rescue inhaler or nebulizer. 2 to 6 puffs of medication from the inhaler should help ease their symptoms.

If symptoms persist for more than 20 minutes, seek medical attention.

Long-Term Asthma Control Interventions

These long-term interventions are medications that should be taken daily to prevent symptoms. Some rescue treatments, such as inhalers and nebulizers, can be used daily, but your doctor will need to adjust your dosages.

Asthma Home Remedies

In most cases, over-the-counter (OTC) medicines and alternative remedies aren’t cheered as treatments for asthma, because of potential side effects.

However, home remedies may help stop symptoms from escalating and may be effective in an emergency situation.

  • Coffee or caffeinated brew: there is a chemical in caffeine that acts similarly to the asthma drug theophylline. This chemical opens up airways and may ease symptoms of asthma.
  • Essential oils: inhaling some essential oils like eucalyptus essential oil may ease breathing difficulties brought on by asthma. Similarly, lavender and basil essential oils also show promise. It is, however, important to warn that strong smells and chemicals can trigger asthma or worsen symptoms in some individuals.
  • Mustard oil made from pressed mustard seeds can be massaged into the skin to help open airways.

Prevention

There’s no way to cure asthma, but, you and your doctor can design a plan for living with your condition and preventing asthma attacks.

  • Follow your asthma action plan, and write a detailed plan for taking medications and managing an asthma attack with your doctor. Be sure to follow your plan.
  • Asthma is an ongoing condition that needs constant monitoring and treatment. Be sure to get vaccinated for influenza and pneumonia, since vaccinations can prevent flu and pneumonia from triggering asthma flare-ups.
  • Identify and avoid asthma triggers as mentioned earlier.
  • Monitor your breathing as that will help you identify and treat attacks early.
  • Take your medication as instructed and immediately stop any activity that may trigger an attack.
  • If your symptoms don’t improve, get medical help immediately, as directed in your action plan.
  • Take your medication as prescribed, even if your asthma seems to be improving; don’t change anything without first discussing it with your doctor.
  • It’s a good idea to bring your medications with you to each doctor visit so your doctor can double-check that you’re taking the right dose and using your medications correctly.
  • Pay attention to increasing quick-relief inhaler use, and if you find yourself relying on your quick-relief inhaler, your asthma isn’t under control, and you should see your doctor about fine-tuning your treatment.
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