Asthma is a chronic condition that causes inflammation of the airways. It is a chronic condition that often starts in childhood, but it can affect people of all ages. Some individuals will grow out of their asthma; however, this is not always the case. Asthma is often linked to allergies, hay fever, and even eczema.
During an asthma attack, your airways become constricted and narrowed. This causes symptoms such as:
● Dyspnea or difficulty breathing
● Shortness of breath
● Chest tightness and/or pain
Asthma attacks can range from mild to severe, and their frequency can vary greatly. Asthma can be triggered by many different things and situations, including:
● Viral infections
● Pet allergies
● Dust mites
● Certain foods
● Medications: aspirin, NSAIDs, certain blood pressure medications
● Hormonal changes, such as pregnancy
● Stress or other strong emotions
● Poor air quality, pollution, or pollen
● Cold, windy weather
Asthma treatments must be adapted to individual patients. Asthma patients who only experience mild, infrequent attacks will require less aggressive treatments than patients with severe or frequent asthma symptoms. There are also self-management strategies for asthma that can help you reduce and manage your symptoms.
What are the best self-management strategies for asthma?
One of the first steps you must take to manage your asthma is to identify any possible triggers. Different things can act as triggers for different people, so you will need to pay attention to your environment and habits to realize what is triggering your asthma. You can keep an “asthma diary” to record your symptoms and correlate them to any possible triggers.
It is also very important that you try to keep your house free of smoke and dust since these are among the most common asthma and allergy triggers. Make sure you change your bedding at least once a week and wash your pillow covers and duvets regularly. You should also wash your curtains if you have them. If you live in an area with considerable air pollution or pollen, face masks can be helpful when you go out. You can also wear a face mask while cleaning or vacuuming your house.
If your doctor has prescribed preventive asthma medication, make sure you take it as instructed. Patients that need to take several different medications for asthma or other conditions might find it helpful to write down a medication schedule, use a weekly pill organizer, or set alarms on their phone. Making sure that you take your medications — including nebulisation — properly is one of the most important steps when it comes to managing your asthma.
Another way to improve your asthma is to get your flu vaccine each year. Getting the flu can cause asthma attacks and worsen your symptoms significantly.
In some cases, you may need to use a peak flow meter (PFM), which is a tool that measures your peak expiratory flow or PEF. Your PEF serves as an indicator of your lung capacity, and it can help you determine whether your asthma is getting better or worse. It can also help you decide whether you need medical assistance during a flare-up.
Available treatments for asthma
There are many different types of asthma medications available. Physicians use algorithms to adjust treatments to the severity of each case. Your doctor will usually devise an asthma action plan, which is simply a written treatment plan that you will be able to follow during attacks.
Certain asthma medications are used for long-term treatments, while others are meant to provide fast relief during an acute attack. Asthma medications can be taken orally, inhaled, or nebulised. Some of the most common asthma medications include:
● Short-acting beta-agonists
● Oral corticosteroids
● Combination medications
Long-term, preventive medications:
● Inhaled corticosteroids
● Oral corticosteroids
● Biologic agents
● Inhaled, long-acting beta-agonists
● Leukotriene modifiers
● Long-acting bronchodilators
● Combination medications
Long-term management of asthma
The complexity of your long-term asthma treatment will depend on the severity and frequency of your symptoms. You will probably need to see your doctor regularly until you find a treatment plan that works for you. During this adjustment period, your physician could recommend trying out different medications and dosages.
You should also follow self-management techniques as closely as possible to decrease the risk of flare-ups. Creating a healthy environment that is trigger-free will bolster the efficacy of your treatments and help you lead a normal life.
Children who suffer from asthma might find that their condition improves as they age. They can even become asymptomatic adults; however, their asthma can still flare up at some point. Asthma tends to be more severe in adults than in children.
Possible complications of poorly-managed asthma
Poorly-managed asthma can result in complications such as:
● Chronic fatigue
● Growth delay in children
● Work or school absenteeism
● Stress and anxiety
● Learning disabilities
● Sleep problems
● Increased risk of weight gain, obesity, hypertension, and diabetes
● Inability to exercise
● Permanent narrowing of the respiratory tract
● Decreased lung function
● Chronic coughing
● Collapsed lung
● Respiratory failure
● Status asthmaticus (asthma attacks that don’t improve with treatment)
Asthma is a very variable condition that can affect every patient differently. But in all cases, avoiding triggers such as smoke and dust, recognising triggers, and taking your treatment as prescribed can make a huge difference in your quality of life.