Asthma is a chronic respiratory disorder that suppresses breathing and can be fatal if symptoms are not prevented or treated immediately. It is the main culprit why more than 300 million asthmatic people around the world carry an inhaler in their pockets and why 250,000 people die from the disease each year. Although asthma can make millions of people scared about its next attack or worried that the disease might become worse or more life-threatening, learning how to manage its symptoms and erring on the side of caution to avoid triggering it will do the trick.
Asthma affects the bronchi and bronchioles–– more commonly known as airways. During an asthma attack the rings of muscle that surround the airways contract and get narrow, which causes the difficulty in breathing. At the same time, the inflammation triggers the mucosal lining to swell and secrete more mucus, blocking the tightened airways. Thus making it harder to breathe.
- Shortness of breath
- Chest tightness or pain
- Difficulty sleeping due to coughing, wheezing, or shortness of breath
- Symptoms worsened by common cold, respiratory virus, or flu
As soon as asthma develops, it will stay with you forever and the closest thing to eradicating it from your lungs is to learn how to live with it. First, you need to identify the substances and irritants that trigger asthma symptoms, which may vary from one person to another. These are asthma causes and triggers to watch out for:
- Pollen, dust mites, mold spores, pet dander or particles of cockroach waste
- Respiratory infections (e.g. common cold)
- Physical activities
- Cold air
- Air pollutants and irritants (e.g. smoke)
- Medications such as (aspirin, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, ibuprofen, and naproxen sodium
- Stress and other strong emotions
- Food preservatives
- Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
Up to this day, asthma remains incurable but medical practitioners have developed certain types of medications that can brace your lungs for triggers.
- Long-term asthma control medications – this is the most important of all asthma treatments as it is taken regularly to manage chronic symptoms and prevent attacks
- Quick-relief medications (rescue medications) – taken during an asthma attack or if symptoms appear for instant relief
- Medications for allergy-induced asthma – this medication reduces the body’s sensitivity to allergens
- Biologics – taken to manage more severe asthma symptoms, this medication reduces any inflammation in the lungs
Paying attention to your breathing, environment, and activities can help in avoiding asthma attacks and will help you save a few pumps of quick-relief inhalers. Ask your doctor to create a step-by-step action plan during an attack. Take anti-influenza and anti-pneumonia vaccines to avoid asthmatic flare-ups. Always monitor your breathing. If you start experiencing shortness of breath or wheezing, drink your meds accordingly. Find out how to avoid allergens that trigger your asthma. Follow your doctor’s prescription and drink your medications regularly.
If you feel like your asthma is improving and symptoms do not show up as often as before, visit your doctor first and give them an update about your current condition. Self-medicating may lead to complications in the future.