asthma head pic

Asthma

If you are new to asthma, you may be a little unsure about what exactly asthma is, why you are only just being diagnosed with it and confused by the different inhalers your doctor has prescribed. If you are a lifelong asthma sufferer as a kid your mum may have nagged you to take your inhaler every morning and to keep track of your peak flow. However, now you don’t really bother with your daily inhaler and depend on your rescue inhaler if you need it. You’re busy worrying about other things and it’s difficult to keep track of taking it every day (especially while you’re also trying to remember what hall that hot girl said she lived in). However, you may be leading yourself into trouble in the not too distant future and it would be bummer if an asthma hit as you climbed up the four floors to her room. This page discusses what asthma is, the importance of managing it properly and the different inhalers and treatments that will help you do just that. There’s no reason not to live normal everyday life like your mates, playing sports, chasing girls and partying the night away, just make sure you look after yourself in the process.

+   What is it?

Asthma happens when the airways in your lungs get inflamed, swell and narrow making it difficult for you to breathe. This inflammation can be caused by a number of different things and there are a number of different treatment options.

+   Symptoms

Asthma symptoms can be scary or they can just be annoying, everyone with asthma will experience them differently and to varying degrees. They can range from life threatening, they can interfere with daily life or they can just be a bit of a nuisance. Below are some of the more common symptoms, learning to recognize them can help you when talking to your doctor and in managing your asthma:

  • Shortness of breath or difficulty getting a deep breath
  • Tightness in the chest
  • Coughing and wheezing
    • Won’t go away
    • Gets worse with a cold or flu
  • Whistling sound when you breath out
  • Sleeping problems
    • Due to the above symptoms

+   Asthma attacks

Severe symptoms of asthma can be very dangerous and are often referred to as an asthma attack. They may develop over 6 – 48 hours building slowly or they may come on very quickly especially if triggered by exercise, allergens or stress. Signs of an asthma attack:

  • Too breathless to speak
  • Racing pulse
  • Pale face
  • Blue lips/finger nails
  • Reliever inhalers don’t work

+   Cause and risk factors

Though lots of people develop asthma as children it is not uncommon for it to develop in adults. This late onset asthma can be due to many causes but is especially connected to allergies, obesity and first or second hand smoke. Other risk factors

  • Blood relative with asthma
  • Exposure to pollutants and chemicals
    • Occupational asthma
  • Allergies
  • Being overweight/obese
  • Low birth weight or a mother who smoked during pregnancy
  • Smoker or someone exposed to second hand smoke

+   Triggers

Triggers are things that lead to asthma symptoms and attacks. Everyone will have different triggers and you will learn what gets your asthma going but this is a list of some common triggers to keep in mind:

  • Exercise and exertion
  • Cold air
  • Air pollutants
    • Car exhausts
    • Smoke
  • Infections such as a cold
  • Allergens
    • Pollen
    • Animal hair
    • Food
  • Medications
    • Beta blockers
    • Aspirin
    • Ibuprofen
  • Stress and other strong emotions
  • Some women’s symptoms get worse during their period

+   Dealing with attacks

Asthma attacks can be super scary and often lead to panic. Unfortunately this just makes them worse. It’s important to learn what to do in the case of an attack. If you or someone you know starts showing the above symptoms:

  • Try and get them somewhere quiet and help them calm down. It’s difficult to relax if your whole football team is staring at you (even if they only mean the best)
    • Sometimes leaning forward with your hands on your knees can help to relax your diaphragm (the muscle that helps you to breathe)
    • It’s important you stay calm too if you are helping someone out. If they see you freak out it will likely only cause them to panic more
  • If the attack had an obvious cause for example, someone is smoking nearby, move away from the source of the problem. If it’s cold outside its worth trying to move indoors
  • Ask someone to get your inhaler for you or if you are helping a friend find their inhaler
    • If you are helping someone, you may need to shake the inhaler for them and help them support it but let them control the dosage
    • If they struggle to use the inhaler, you can try to use a cup or tub and spray the inhaler into it
  • If you don’t have your inhaler on you or can’t find a friends inhaler
    • You should call 999 or get them to a hospital if they are showing severe symptoms such as not being able to speak, rapid breathing or blue lips. While you wait you can try the following
      • Calming down and controlling breathing
      • A drink with caffeine can help to relax the airways such as tea, coffee or a fizzy drink (best cold, even though cold tea/coffee is gross it’s worth it)
      • Antihistamines can help if the attack is caused by an allergen
      • Running a hot shower or hot tap in sink and shutting the door of the bathroom to fill it with steam

+   Inhalers and treatments

It’s important to take managing your asthma seriously. People with asthma live completely normal lives but it can be fatal. Though you may feel like it’s a pain consider using your preventer inhaler and monitoring your peak flow as part of your regular routine, just like how you brush your teeth every day. Avoid your triggers and make sure to carry your reliever inhaler especially if you are going for a gym session or a quick game of five a side.

Inhalers come in two main types: preventers and relievers. A preventer inhaler is meant to control inflammation in the long run and minimize day to day symptoms. A reliever inhaler is to be used for relief when symptoms get bad and you feel the beginnings of an asthma attack. People with mild and infrequent asthma symptoms may just be given a reliever inhaler by their doc.

Reliever Inhalers

These inhalers provide relief by quickly opening swollen airways that are limiting breathing by relaxing the muscles surrounding the airways. Great for short term use but shouldn’t be used more than 3 times per week. If you find yourself using it more regularly than this you should talk to your doctor about new ways to manage your asthma. They may recommend a new preventer inhaler.

  • Use short-actingbeta2- agonist
    • Albuterol
    • Salbutamol
  • Often come in blue or purple casings
  • Safe but shouldn’t be used more than 3 times per week
    • If overused may cause headaches and hand shaking

Preventers Inhalers

These types of inhalers are usually prescribed to people who suffer from asthma symptoms more than twice a week and who wake up sometimes due to symptoms. You may need to take for a few days or weeks before the full benefits are reached

  • These are mostly inhaled corticosteroids
  • Come  in brown, red and orange casings
  • Include
    • Fluticasone
    • Mometasone
  • Low risk for side effects and safe for long term use

Allergy Medicines

If you have allergies they may be a trigger to your asthma, use allergy medicines such as antihistamines and nasal sprays to help keep them in check.

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