What is asthma?
Asthma is a chronic disease of your lungs’ airways. or bronchial tubes. Chromic means that it lasts a long time. Asthma has two main parts:
- Inflammation (Swelling and irritation of the airways)
- Constriction (Tightening of the muscles around the airways)
Inflammation and constriction together cause your airways to narrow. This can lead to asthma symptoms, such as wheezing, chest tightness, coughing, or shortness of breath. You may think of these symptoms as an asthma attack.
If you have asthma, you may feel fine for long periods of time. But just using your quick-relief (rescue) inhaler to relieve symptoms and avoiding triggers doesn’t always mean you’re managing your asthma as well as you could be.
Talk with your provider about daily preventative medicine (long-term controllers) if you have:
- Daytime asthma symptoms more than twice a week, or
- Nighttime asthma symptoms more than twice a month.
Prevent Long-Term Problems
There are three main ways to manage your asthma:
- Reduce airway inflammation.
- Prevent airway constriction.
- Know the warning signs of an asthma attack.
You can manage airway constriction and inflammation by:
- Taking asthma medicines as prescribed by your healthcare provider. For many patients, this means treating both components of asthma-airway constriction and inflammation.
- Knowing and avoiding your asthma triggers.
- Following an action plan you create with your provider.
Create an asthma action plan
An Asthma Action Plan is a written, personalized plan that helps you manage your asthma. It’s based on changes in your symptoms and peak flow readings.
Your action plan may need to be changed or updated from time to time. Review your action plan at least once a year with your healthcare provider.
Watch for signs of an asthma attack
An asthma attack happens when the muscles around your airways tighten. Also, the lining of your airways gets more swollen or inflamed, and the cells lining your airways make more and thicker mucus than normal.
Asthma affects people in different ways. the symptoms can vary from person to person and from asthma attack to asthma attack.
Early warning signs of an asthma attack
Asthma attacks can seem to come without warning. But, there are changes you can learn to recognize, so that you can treat an attack quickly. some early warning signs include:
- Decrease in your peak flow numbers
- Coughing often, especially at night
- Losing your breath easily or being short of breath
- Feeling very tired or weak when exercising
- Wheezing or coughing after exercise
- Feeling very tired
- Signs of a cold or allergies (Such as sneezing, runny or stuffy nose, coughing, sore throat, and headache)
- Trouble sleeping because of breathing problems
If you have early warning signs or symptoms, follow your Asthma Action Plan and take the asthma medicine your healthcare provider has prescribed.
Sings that you should seek immediate medical attention include:
- Difficulty speaking
- Lips or fingernails turn gray or blue
- Heart rate is very fast
- Quick-relief (rescue) medicine fails to help
- Peak flow reading is in the red zone
Talk with your provider if you have any questions about when to seek immediate medical attention.
Know Your Triggers
Asthma symptoms are caused by a variety of triggers. when you’re exposed to a trigger, your lungs’ airways constrict and become more inflamed and swollen. This makes it harder for you to breathe.
Triggers vary from person to person. In some people, asthma symptoms can be triggered by allergies. In others, different things may irritate their airways. Common triggers include:
- Pets – Pet dander (tiny bits of skin) and saliva can trigger asthma symptoms.
- Rugs – Rugs often have dust mites. These bugs, so small that you can’t see them, can trigger an asthma attack.
- Cockroaches – Many people with asthma are also allergic to the dried droppings and remains of cockroaches.
- Cigarette Smoke – A major trigger of asthma symptoms.
- Perfumes – Strong odors can irritate your lungs.
- Intense laughing and crying – Can cause breathing trouble in people with asthma.
- Mold – Growing in damp areas both indoors and outside, it can cause asthma attacks in people with asthma who are allergic to it.
- Trees, grasses, and weeds – Release fine powders, called pollens. Pollens are some of the most common causes of allergies.
- Weather – Affects how much pollen and pollution are in the air. Cold weather or a sharp drop in temperatures can trigger asthma symptoms.
- Respiratory Illness – Like the flu, respiratory illness can cause asthma symptoms to flare up.
- Heartburn – If you have heartburn, ask your provider to find out if treating it could help lessen your asthma symptoms.
- Exercise – Can cause asthma symptoms in some people. A long warm-up before exercise can help. So can certain asthma medicines.
Know your triggers and talk with your provider about what medicine is best and when you should take it.
Asthma medicines fall into one of the two groups:
Preventative medicines (long-term controllers) help control asthma attacks.they are usually taken by inhaler. They help prevent asthma symptoms and attacks by:
- Decreasing swelling and irritation of the airways
- Keeping muscles around the airway from tightening
- Quick-relief (rescue) medicines are used to relieve sudden asthma symptoms. Usually prescribed as inhalers, these medicines relax the muscles around the lungs’ airways.
Your doctor may prescribe both types of medicine
If prescribed by your doctor, make sure you take preventative medicines every day. While they do not replace quick-relief (rescue) medicines, they can help prevent symptoms and reduce your need for the rescue medicine.
Since many people with asthma have allergies that trigger their symptoms, your doctor may decide that you would benefit from allergy testing and allergy treatments.
Using Your Asthma Devices
There are several different devices available to help you manage your asthma.
Common asthma devices
- Inhalers – Inhalers send medicine directly to the lungs where people with asthma need it.
- Spacers – Spacers can help you inhale more of your medicine into the airways, where it is supposed to go, instead of into your throat.
- Nebulizers – These produce a mist of medicine that you inhale into your lungs. The mist comes through a mask that fits over your nose and mouth.Nebulizers are useful if you cannot use an inhaler. They are also often used to help deliver quick-relief (rescue) medicines during severe asthma attacks
- Peak Flow Meters – A peak flow meter is a simple device that measures how well air is moving out of your lungs. There are several kinds of peak flow meters, but the way you use them is almost the same. All peak flow meters have a mouthpiece and a scale marked with numbers.
For best results, always have your provider how to use a device, and ask him or her to watch you use it.
Check Your Lungs
Your peak flow readings can help tell you when you need to use your quick-relief (rescue) inhaler or nebulizer (even before you notice any asthma symptoms) and help you prevent an attack.
Why take peak flow readings?
By keeping a regular record of your peak flow results, you can help your doctor make decisions about your treatment. Measuring your peak flow:
- Helps you spot the early stages of an attack,so you can treat it early.
- Helps you decide when yo seek emergency treatment, based on your Asthma Action Plan.
- Shows how your condition changes over a 24-hour period.This helps your doctor decide what medicines you should be taking.
- Helps you identify identify asthma triggers.
- Shows whether your asthma symptoms are stable, better, or worse.
Keep An Asthma Diary
Your provider may ask you to keep a daily asthma diary. This diary can help you track you good and bad days, your triggers, and your symptoms. You and your provider can sue this information to fine-tune your asthma treatment plan.
If you miss a day, start again the next. The goal is to make it a habit and having some information about your asthma is better than having none at all.
Three tips for keeping a successful asthma diary:
- Make an entry every day.Try to make writing in your diary a habit. Keep it in the same place and take even just a few seconds to make an entry every day.
- Enter as much information as possible.It’s nearly impossible to have too much information about your asthma.
Keep on writing.If you miss a day or so of writing in your journal, start up again.
Goals of Asthma Treatment
With proper treatment, you should aim to:
- Take part fully in everyday activities,such as work an d school, along with exercise and other physical activities.
- Minimize asthma symptoms, such as coughing, wheezing, tightness in chest, and shortness of breath.
- Sleep through the night without waking up because of asthma symptoms.
- Reduce the number of emergency room trips and unscheduled office visits.
- Maintain normal or near-normal lung function.
- Experience few to no side effects from medicines.
With today’s asthma medicines, active, healthy living with minimal symptoms is a realistic goal. Aim for nothing less!