If you’re one of the 25 million people in the United States who suffers from asthma, you know how challenging it can be to handle the symptoms on your own. Whether you are looking for alternative treatment options to reduce your systems and avoid attacks or are concerned you may have undiagnosed asthma, learn all the symptoms, causes and treatment options for this condition.
What Is Asthma?
As a chronic disease, asthma can limit the effectiveness of your airways. Your bronchial tubes bring air in and out of your lungs. Asthma causes these tubes to be inflamed, which causes them to swell and tighten when triggered.
Not all types of this condition have the same causes or symptoms. Determining the type you have could affect your treatment options. Here are some of the common forms:
- Exercise-Induced Bronchoconstriction (EIB): With EIB, your symptoms typically only occur when you are exercising. Moderate physical activity causes your bronchial tubes to tighten, which can restrict your breathing and cause all the typical symptoms of asthma.
- Allergic Asthma: This form occurs in individuals who suffer from asthma due to allergic reactions.
- Childhood Asthma: Approximately 6 million children live with asthma. A diagnosis during childhood is particularly challenging, since asthma is a chronic disease.
- Occupational Asthma: Because the primary cause of this condition is inflamed airways, exposure to any harmful gases, fumes or dust can permanently harm your bronchial tubes and cause occupational asthma.
Asthma is an ongoing disease, but there are times when the symptoms are far more prevalent. A sudden swelling and tightening of your bronchial tubes is called an asthma attack. During these stressful episodes, symptoms are typically far stronger than usual. Many individuals have trouble breathing at all and can sometimes require medical care. If you or a loved one is going through an asthma attack, follow these important steps:
- Remain calm.
- Don’t lie down.
- Breathe a puff through a rescue inhaler or reliever every 30 to 60 seconds, up to 10 puffs total.
- Contact emergency services in your area if symptoms remain or increase after 10 puffs.
- If an ambulance doesn’t arrive in 15 minutes or less, continue to take puffs as described in step 3.
Whether your asthma attacks are mild or life-threatening, one of the best ways to lessen symptoms, other than a rescue inhaler, is to remain calm. Excess stress can cause your bronchial tubes to constrict, which can restrict breathing. Symptoms of an asthma attack are typical of the condition but are usually far more intense. If you or a loved one has asthma, it’s vital that you keep an inhaler on hand in any circumstance, particularly when there is exposure to dust, pollen or smoke.
Each common symptom of asthma can be life-threatening without treatment. If you or someone you know experiences these symptoms routinely, contact a doctor or allergist for diagnosis and treatment options.
Because of bronchial inflammation, individuals with asthma typically experience some or all of the following symptoms:
- Shortness of breath
- A tightening feeling in the chest
- Excessive coughing, usually when laughing, exercising or at night
- A squeaky whistling sound when you exhale
Asthma doesn’t cause a fever or mucus buildup, so if you are experiencing these symptoms talk to your doctor immediately. These are signs of bronchitis, which also causes inflammation that leads to a tightening of the airways. Viral and bacterial infections can also restrict your breathing and inflame your airways, so contact a medical professional to get an accurate diagnosis of your current condition.
Doctors are confident of a few contributing factors to asthma. However, the exact cause is unknown. There are many factors that can play a key role in determining whether an individual is likely to have asthma.
If one or both of your parents have asthma, there’s a strong chance you may as well. Research indicates that asthma may be inherited, but there are other factors in your environment that could also lead to the condition. Early childhood respiratory infections, particularly those that causes inflammation, have been linked with childhood asthma.
Other environmental considerations include common particles that irritate your bronchial tubes, such as cigarette smoke, fumes or dust. Individuals who have allergies are also more likely to have asthma. Until science learns more about the exact cause or causes of the condition, it can be difficult to confidently avoid any chance of it developing later on in life.
Chronic conditions may not have any complete treatment plans. However, there are a wide range of helpful ways to minimize your symptoms and decrease the seriousness of an asthma attack. Here are a few common treatment options to help reduce your asthma symptoms:
- Medication: Some individuals have success with long-term asthma medications, such as inhaled corticosteroids. Other medications provide short-term relief, such as a beta2-agonist or anticholinergics. Ask your doctor or allergist about medication options.
- Avoidance: Although the cause may be unknown, the irritants that bring on asthma symptoms are easily identified. One way to reduce the likelihood of experiencing an asthma attack is to avoid airborne pollutants, allergens and smoke as much as possible.
- Immunotherapy: Allergic asthma can be minimized through immunotherapy. Ask a trained allergist about your options, and carefully compare the two basic types of immunotherapy available. Allergy shots are a common way to dramatically reduce symptoms, while sublingual tablets can be used for daily relief through allergy season.
A key to effective treatment is understanding the type of asthma you are experiencing. From allergic to childhood asthma, each type has different strategies for effectively minimizing symptoms and avoiding dangerous attacks.
If you think you or a loved one may be living with asthma, don’t wait to contact a doctor or allergist. This can be a severely debilitating condition without proper treatment. With a personalized treatment plan, you can learn to take control of your breathing and return to all your favorite activities. Effective treatment and a dynamic support system can dramatically improve your abilities and your confidence in taking on old and new challenges.