Asthma occurs when your airways become inflamed and swell up. This narrows the passage, leading to difficulties in breathing, tightness in your chest, wheezing and sometimes coughing. It is incurable at the moment, but treatable, as long as you know the triggers and have an action plan in place.
There are numerous triggers for asthma. They include: dust, pollen, animals (especially their hair), chemicals in the air, cigarette smoke, respiratory infections, mold, exercise, weather changes (usually cold weather), freshly cut grass and some medications, notably aspirin and other anti-inflammatory, nonsteroid-type drugs. Asthma can also be genetic if a family member has had asthma, eczema, allergies or hay fever.
Some foods can also trigger an asthma attack. The most common foods include fish, shellfish, eggs, soy, peanuts, wheat, cow’s milk, fresh fruit and salads. Some preservatives can also trigger asthma. For example, anything in the “sulfite” family is usually an asthma trigger.
More severe symptoms of asthma can include a high level of anxiety and stress because you can’t breathe properly, a rapid heart beat, sweating, short bursts of non-breathing followed by an irregular breathing pattern, tightness in your chest, confusion, drowsiness and reduced alertness. If you don’t get treatment immediately, your lips may start to turn blue as you suffer from a lack of oxygen.
You may find it impossible to sleep. If your condition is bad enough, your lung function could become permanently inhibited, and you may require a ventilator to help you breathe. You may have a persistent cough and a permanent reduced exercise capacity. If your asthma is bad enough and isn’t treated, it can even be fatal.
If your trigger is cigarette smoke, it is crucial that you avoid coming into contact with smokers where possible. Even the smell of the cigarettes on their clothing can be enough to trigger an asthma attack in some cases. Avoid venues where smoking is permitted, and never let anybody smoke in your home.
Asthma is a very unpredictable ailment. You can go for weeks, months or even years without having an asthma attack, and it can hit you out without warning. If you know you have asthma, it is essential that you have a treatment plan in place to cope with an attack.
Most asthmatics use a preventer and a reliever. The preventer is used daily and the reliever is used as often as your doctor advises. Sometimes it’s daily and other times it’s only when needed. A mild asthma attack can be managed with these medications which will quickly settle the problem.
In more severe cases, you may require a nebulizer, which is a breathing machine that enables more of the medication to enter your body faster, in order to help control the asthma. Many people suffering from asthma have their own machine, but they can also be rented if only needed occasionally.
If your case is severe enough, you’ll require an ambulance trip to hospital where the doctors will use stronger cortisone medication and a nebulizer to control your asthma and settle it down.
It’s essential that you know how to handle your asthma and that you seek immediate medical help if your asthma attack is very serious.