Asthma is an incurable breathing condition where your airways produce more mucus than usual, which affects the lungs making it hard to breathe. People with asthma have airways that are extremely narrow and sensitive. Because of this, breathing can be very difficult at times and may trigger uncontrollable wheezing, chest tightness, shortness of breath, and ultimately, asthma attacks.
Signs & Symptoms of Asthma
Developing asthma can be a scary, terrifying thing, but it doesn’t have to be that way! When it comes to asthma attacks, there are always warning signs. Because asthma varies from person to person, signs and symptoms look different for everyone. Although people with asthma don’t experience the same symptoms, general signs to look out for include:
- Shortness of breath
- Tightness or pain in the chest
- Trouble sleeping due to wheezing or coughing
- Uncontrollable wheezing or coughing attacks
- Itchy cough lasting more than a week
- Rubbing nose a lot
- Increased difficulty breathing
Asthma can also be triggered by the following:
- Physical activity
- Airborne allergens dust mites, pollen, mold, etc.
- Air pollutants like smoke
- Respiratory infections like the common cold
- Foods and beverages that have sulfites and preservatives like processed potatoes, dried fruit, beer and wine
Having your primary care physician check for allergies and how well your lungs work is a good way to find out if you have asthma. During the checkup, your doctor may ask you to cough a lot or if you experience any breathing problems during physical activity or specific times of the year. They will check for chest tightness, wheezing, and any family history of asthma, allergies, or other breathing problems. They will also perform a spirometry, a breathing test to check how well your lungs are functioning by having you breathe out after taking a long breath before or after using asthma medicine.
When an asthma attack happens, the muscles that surround the bronchial tubes compress, closing in the air passages and making it extremely hard to breathe. An asthma attack generally feels like an elephant is sitting on your chest as you struggle to draw in a full breath. Your chest gets tight and your breathing elevates. The length of time an asthma attack lasts varies, depending on the cause and the period of time the airways were inflamed. Mild attacks can last usually only a few minutes whereas more serious attacks can go on from hours to days.
How to Treat Asthma
Although there is no cure for asthma, it can be prevented and controlled with the right measures of consistency. Taking your medication as instructed by your doctor and staying away from things that can trigger an asthma attack is very important in controlling your asthma. Asthma varies for everyone who has it; everyone with asthma does not take the same medication nor is every experience the same. Some people inhale their medicine whereas others may take a pill. Asthma medicines come in two forms: long term control and quick relief. Long term control medications help to implement fewer and less severe attacks whereas quick relief medications control the signs and symptoms of an asthma attack. The following are also ways of preventing asthma attacks:
- Observe your breathing.
- Know how to identify and avoid your triggers.
- Follow the asthma action plan you created with your primary care physician.
- Take your medication as prescribed by your primary care physician.
- Treat your asthma attacks as early as you can identify them.
Even though all the things that can cause asthma are not known, we do know that there are environmental and occupational factors that play a part. Asthma development and treatment looks different for everyone, depending on the type of asthma they have. The following are the different types that can be triggered: For some people, asthma can be triggered depending on the kind:
- Exercise-induced asthma
- Occupational asthma
- Allergy-induced asthma
Asthma Action Plan
You can control your asthma instead of it controlling you. Anyone who has asthma must have an Asthma Action Plan! Find a plan for treating your asthma that works for you with your primary care physician. With your doctor’s help and the proper asthma treatment, your asthma can be prevented and controlled with the right measures of consistency. When asthma is treated the right way, people with asthma can live happy, normal lives.