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ASTHMA

Definition

Asthma. (Az-muh) is a chronic disease that affects the airways. The airways are the tubes that carry air in and out of the lungs. . If you have asthma, the inside walls of your airways are inflamed (swollen). The inflammation (IN-fla-MAY-shun) makes the airways very sensitive, and they tend to react strongly to things that you are allergic to or find irritating. When the airways react, they get narrower, and less air flows through to your lung tissue.1 Asthma is characterized by periodic attack of wheezing, shortness of breath, chest tightness, and coughing.2

Asthma has no cure, but can be controlled by prescription medicines, medical devices and a lot of caution in every endeavor that you do including the food that you eat. It is a Greek word for pant or breathe hard.3

Figure 1 Figure 2

The muscles of the bronchial tree become tight and the lining of the air passages swells, reducing airflow and producing the characteristic wheezing sound. The muscles of the bronchial tree become tight and the lining of the air passages swells, reducing airflow and producing the characteristic wheezing sound

Cross section of the bronchi of the lungs4

What sets off your asthma symptoms? 5

    Many different things can set off your asthma symptoms. Each person with asthma has her own set of asthma inducers and asthma triggers. It's important for every person with asthma to know what their triggers and inducers are, so they can avoid them and live normal healthy lives.

Asthma inducers- airways can become inflamed (red and swollen).

    • Pollen- from grass, trees, weeds
    • Animal- household pets such as cats, dogs furs
    • Molds
    • Household dust and mites
    • viral infection- like a cold or flu

Asthma triggers- the muscles around the airways can go into spasm and squeeze together tightly leaving less room for air to pass through. Triggers do not cause inflammation. They are usually immediate and short lived. If inflammation is already present, the airway will react more quickly to the triggers.

    • Smoke- usually from cigarette, factory
    • Strong fumes
    • Exercise
    • Other triggers

Sulfites- these are chemicals found in wine, beer, shrimp, dried fruits and processed potatoes,
and can cause breathing difficulty for many people with asthma

Medications- some medications, such as aspirin or beta blockers, can trigger asthma flare-ups. Talk to your doctor if you think a medication may be causing asthma symptoms

Strong smells- perfumes, sprays and cleaning products can make asthma worse.



What are the different symptoms of asthma.

Wheezing - occurs when lower airways are narrow or constricted – breathing feels difficult and there is a whistling sound in the chest on breathing out.6

Coughing- A cough is an expiratory effort producing a sudden, noisy expulsion of air from the lungs, usually in an effort to free the lungs of some foreign material (real or imagined).

Shortness of breathe- or dyspnea, is a feeling of difficult or labored breathing that is out of proportion to the patient's level of physical activity. It is a symptom of a variety of different diseases or disorders and may be either acute or chronic.7

Chest Tightness

    How to minimize asthma attacks with regards to each inducers and triggers?

Dust and Dust Mites:

    Put your mattresses and pillows in special allergen-proof covers.

    Remove all animal products from bedding (e.g. feather pillows and down comforters).

    Wash your bedding every week in hot water (over 130º F).

    Wash stuffed animals often and, if possible, remove other dust collectors from the bedroom.

    Dust woodwork and wash curtains often.

    Use a damp mop on floors instead of sweeping.

    Vacuum carpets/rugs weekly with a HEPA filter. It's better to have bare floors than carpets, if possible.

    Replace air conditioner and furnace filters monthly.

Mold and Mildew:

    Keep the bathroom dry by using an exhaust fan or dehumidifier.
    Clean sinks, tubs and showers often with a bleach solution (1 part bleach, 3 parts water).
    Limit house plants as they are sources of dampness and mold.
    Ask your health care provider before using a vaporizer or humidifier. Always keep vaporizers and humidifiers clean.
    Clean spacers and nebulizers often.

Pollen:

    During allergy season, use air conditioning instead of opening the windows.
    Change the air conditioner filter monthly.
    Shower or bathe after being outdoors.
    Your doctor may recommend additional medicines during allergy season.

Pets

    Keep pets outside, if possible.
    Keep them off the furniture.
    Keep pets out of the bedrooms.
    Bathe your pets weekly.

Smoking

    Smoking and secondhand smoke irritate the lungs. For people with asthma, it increases swelling of the breathing tubes and mucus production. Remember, children's airways are smaller than the airways of adults. More swelling means even less air can get into the lungs. If you or anyone in your home smokes, quit.

    Do not allow a child to be around smoke.
    Do not allow smoking in your home or your car.

Exercise

    Some people have asthma symptoms (wheezing, coughing and shortness of breath) after they start exercising. However, exercise is important to your health and asthma should not keep you or your child from playing sports or doing other types of physical activities. Tell your doctor if exercise causes your asthma to flare-up.

    Take your asthma medicine as prescribed. Your doctor may tell you to take it just before exercising.
    Warm up by exercising slowly at first.
    Limit exercise if you are ill or if the weather is cold and dry.
    Do not use wood burning stoves or fireplaces and avoid campfires.

Stress

    Strong emotions, such as anger and anxiety, can lead to changes in breathing that can cause asthma symptoms or make them worse. Regular exercise, deep breathing, meditation and relaxation techniques can help reduce stress.

Illness

Even minor colds can cause asthma flare-ups.

    Wash hands often.
    Eat well and get plenty of sleep.
    Avoid people with colds and flu.
    Get a yearly flu shot.

Other Triggers

    Sulfites: These chemicals are found in wine, beer, shrimp, dried fruit and processed potatoes, and can cause breathing difficulty for many people with asthma.

    Medications: Some medications, such as aspirin or beta blockers, can trigger asthma flare-ups. Talk to your doctor if you think a medication may be causing asthma symptoms.

    Strong smells: Perfumes, sprays and cleaning products can make asthma worse.

1National Heart Lung and Blood Institute Diseases and Condition Index

2Frederick F. Little, MD

3The Greek name it ASTHMA because of the wheezing that usually occurs during an asthma attack.

4National Heart Lung and Blood Institute Diseases and Condition (pulmonary diseases)

5Canadian Lung Association

6National Asthma Council Australia

7Rebecca J. Frey PhD


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