Everyday someone in the world is confined to their home. They are punished because of something uncontrollable. A disease known as Asthma, holds them a prisoner in their own home. The reason they are held captive by this disease is because of its nature and how different environmental factors trigger the symptoms. Let us take a more in depth look into the disease for a better understanding.
Asthma can be defined as an inflammation and constriction of the bronchial tubes, the airways of your lungs. Your airways during an attack also produce more mucus, which causes blocking of the airways. There are many ways to tell when you are having an asthma attack. One of the most common symptoms is shortness of breath. This does not mean that you cannot take in a deep breath, it means your normal breathing has become shorter. Another common symptom that many have is either pain or tightness in the chest. Sometimes with more severe asthma the pain is also in the upper back, behind your lungs. Whistling or wheezing when exhaling is also a very common symptom with people who are having an asthma attack. Generally this are the most common symptoms that people with asthma have to deal with on a day to day basis. A symptom that is often associate with more severe cases of asthma is trouble sleeping because of asthma related coughing. These symptoms generally are worsened by sicknesses such as bronchitis or the flu.
Now, a lot of people always ask what causes asthma. The truth is there is not an exact answer as to why some people get it and others do not. Many doctors would agree though that genetics and environment play a huge role in someone having the disease. Asthma triggers also vary from person to person. Not all asthmatics are triggered by the same things. Two common triggers are allergens and exercise. These seem to be triggers for many asthmatics. Another big trigger, especially in the winter is cold weather. Many asthmatics have trouble walking without the need of their inhaler in the winter. Humidity is also a big trigger for some people, the combination of pollen and humidity is often why asthmatics are confined to the homes in the summer. Air pollutants such as smoke, is also an extremely common trigger. Many asthmatics abstain from cigarette use because of this. Respiratory infections, like the common cold also tend to be a trigger for most asthmatics. Other triggers include certain medications, sulfates found in processed foods, strong emotions, stress, food allergies, and gastroesophageal disorders such as GERD where stomach acid enter the esophagus. Some women also have asthmatic triggers when they are menstruating. Please keep in mind though that this is just a list of some common triggers.
As with any disease or disorder there are many risk factors associated with asthma. It is best to keep in mind that these do not necessarily mean that someone affected by the risk factor will definitely develop asthma, it just means people with these characteristics have a greater chance of having it. The main risk factor is a family history of asthma. You are at a greater risk naturally if you have a genetic history of asthma. Living or working in certain environments also put you at a greater risk of developing asthma. People who live in urban areas with high pollution tend to develop asthma more than people in more open areas. People in jobs with chemicals such as farming and salon workers generally increase their risk as well. People in manufacturing who are around a lot of pollutants can also be at a high risk. Damage to the lungs from such things as smoking, secondhand smoke, and respiratory infections as a child can also put you at risk of developing asthma. Lastly, two other risk factors are low birth weight and being overweight. That is not to say all children born with low birth weights or all overweight people will be asthmatic, nor is that stigmatizing the illness.
There are several ways to find out if you have asthma. It is very important that you seek medical help if you believe you might have asthma. Your doctor will be able to run a test or series of tests to determine if you have asthma. Some of these test measure your airway narrowing during inhale and exhale. Some are very simple and just test your breathing. Others are more complicated and are further in depth tests such as the Methacholine bronchial challenge. These tests no matter how simple or complex are very important in the diagnosis of your asthma. Another very important component is to know when to call the doctor after you have been diagnosed. Of course it is best to regularly see you physician to monitor and medicate your asthma, but it is equally important to make sure you contact him or her as soon as you feel your symptoms are worsening. If you are having a severe asthma attack call 9-1-1 immediately and go to the nearest emergency room.
Now, once you know you have asthma you want to know how to treat and prevent attacks. It is important that you and your doctor come up with an asthma action plan that includes prevention and treatment. Treatment is generally two fold. It includes both long acting control medication and fast acting relief medications. Some common long acting control medications include inhaled corticosteroids (examples include Flovent and Pulmicort), leukotriene modifiers (examples include Singular and Zyflo), Theophylline pills, long-acting beta agonists (an example is Serevent), and combination inhalers such as Advair and Symbicort. Some common quick acting relief medication includes short-acting beta agonists such as albuterol inhalers, Ipratropium (Atrovent), and oral or intravenous corticosteroids. For people with asthma related to allergies sometimes there action plan includes allergy medications and allergy shots. It is best to remember not to solely rely on your quick action medication. Long action medications in the long run will help prevent asthma attacks.
They always say that prevention is worth a pound of cure. Well, it very well may be when it comes to asthma. Asthma does not have cure. It only has treatment and prevention. Prevention often saves the lives of asthmatics. Your first step in preventing asthma flare ups is to have an asthma action plan. Know how you are going to use you medication and treat attacks. Your next step is to identify your triggers, keep a notebook handy to write them down and try your best to avoid them. Monitor your breathing with a peak flow meter, that way you will know right away if there are any changes in your breathing. Identify your attacks, know what your first warning signs of an attack are and make sure you act on them quickly. Lastly and most important, do not change anything in your medication unless directed by your doctor. Even if you think you asthma is getting better do not stop taking anything prescribed to you.
Lastly, there are a few home remedies that you can do in order to stay attack free and healthy. They are very simple lifestyle adjustments that can help prevent asthma attacks and help prevent asthma from making you a prisoner in your own home. Everyone can say avoid triggers but many do not know there are ways to do it that are very simple. First, use an air conditioner in the summer or if you live in a high humidity area. Air conditioners reduce the amount of pollen that comes indoors and also reduces indoor humidity. Even with going green, you can designate a room in your house as an air conditioned safe haven for your asthma. Another thing you can use in your home to help with humidity is a dehumidifier. This device will help keep your home at an optimal humidity. Simple cleaning in the home to prevent dust is a good way to also prevent asthma. Some more in depth steps to a cleaner home, is reduce or remove carpeting and encasing your bedding and bedding in dust proof covers. If pets are a trigger for your asthma, be sure to avoid one with fur or feathers, or look into dogs and cats who are hypoallergenic. Lastly, if it is cold out, make sure you cover your face! If air cannot get to your nose and mouth, it cannot get to your lungs. Always remember that exercising and maintaining a healthy weight can also reduce your asthma symptoms.
For more information and support log on to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America at http://www.aafa.org/esg_search.cfm#find to find you local chapter.