Asthma is an extremely common disease, affecting over 22 million people in the United States alone. It often begins in childhood and can follow a person throughout their life. And even though there is no cure, when treated correctly, asthma can be both managed and controlled. Here we go over the symptoms, causes, and treatments of asthma, along with tips on how to avoid certain asthma-inducing triggers.
What is Asthma ?
Asthma is a chronic illness that affects the lung’s airways. The lung’s airways carry air in and out of the lungs. In people suffering with asthma the muscles in their airways can become constricted and swollen, allowing less air to pass through. Symptoms of asthma can include:
- Trouble breathing
- Shortness of breath
- Tightness in the chest
- Chronic coughing
Symptoms of asthma most commonly occur in reaction to various allergens, irritants, activities, and surroundings. These triggers can cause a flare-up of symptoms, also called asthma attacks. These triggers can include:
- Allergens, such as animal dander, dust, mold, pollen, or cockroaches
- Irritants, such as cigarette smoke, air pollution, or sprays (hair spray, disinfectant spray, etc.)
- Certain medications
- Physical activity
- Sulfites in foods or drinks
- Changes in weather
Not everyone experiences asthma the same way. Severity of symptoms and triggers can differ depending on the person.
People are more likely to develop asthma throughout their lifetime if they have parents who suffer from asthma, had specific respiratory infections during their childhood, or had exposure to allergens or viral infections during infancy. The exact cause of asthma is unknown, and there is no cure. But, when properly treated, asthma can be maintained.
Doctors who specialize in asthma work with patients to help control their symptoms. Since everyone experiences asthma differently, doctors will prescribe different medications and create different plans to fit each individual’s symptoms and triggers. Prescription asthma medications come in two types: long-term control and short-term control. Long-term control medications help prevent asthma symptoms while short-term medications give instant relief from symptoms.
People suffering from asthma should avoid their triggers. Ways to do this can include:
- Avoid smoking and secondhand smoke.
- Dust mites: Encase mattresses and pillows in special dust-proof covers. Wash pillowcases, sheets, and blankets weekly in hot water. Remove any carpets from your bedroom (If possible).
- Animal Dander: Keep furred and feathered pets outside the home or out of bedrooms and carpeted rooms.
- Cockroaches: Keep food out of the bedroom and keep food and garbage contained. Use pest control products, and avoid rooms that have been sprayed with pest control until the odor goes away.
- Mold: Fix leaking sources of water (pipes, faucets, etc.). Clean mold with bleach-infused cleansers.
- Pollen: Keep windows closed during allergy seasons. If possible, stay inside midday during allergy seasons (peak pollen time).
Asthma and Physical Activity
People suffering from asthma should not avoid physical activity. Aside from being a vital factor for a healthy lifestyle, exercise can help control asthma symptoms. If you or a loved one is experiencing symptoms from physical activities, see a doctor about ways to help lessen and control symptoms. The best exercises to do are cardio workouts that help speed up the heart rate and open the lungs. To avoid asthma attacks while working out, try working out in short intervals with short rest periods, warming up for about ten minutes before working out, allowing yourself time to cool down afterwards, and avoiding working out in trigger environments, such as places with high amounts of pollen or cold dry air. When working out, you should never feel faint, dizzy, or overworked. To make sure this doesn’t happen, try doing the talk-test. You should be able to talk or hold a conversation while working out. If you can’t, then your workout may be too strenuous.