Asthma is a disorder that affects 20% of Australians in their childhood. It causes airways to narrow making it difficult to breathe. Symptoms may include loss of breathe in cold weather, wheezing and whistling.
It may occur periodically in sudden sharp attacks. When an attack occurs -
The muscles around the wind pipe
tighten shrinking the airways.
The wind pipe lining then swells (picture) and a mucus called phlegm develops causing the cough to intensify and slightly more painful.
What are the Causes and Triggers for asthma
Attacks of Asthma occur due to a blockage in the bronchial tubes. This blockage results from a spasm that narrows the windpipe causing breathing difficulty for the sufferer.
Asthma Triggers are things that make Asthma worse. Usual triggers are -
Respiratory infections eg. Colds, flu, sore throats and bronchitis
Allergic reactions sometimes cause Asthma eg. Pollen, foods, dust, animal fur or some seed.
Air irritants (similar to Allergic reactions) eg. Cigarette smoke, gases or dust.
Excessive/strenuous exercise can cause an Asthma attack.
Emotional Stress can also trigger an Asthma attack.
Symptoms of Asthma
Symptoms include wheezing from the chest
or a slight whistling is heard when inhaling. It's even louder when exhaling.
Tightness of the chest, lung and lung area are closely associated with Asthma.
Treatment for asthma
There is no cure for Asthma but there are steps that doctors take to help relieve the symptoms of Asthma.
As a first step doctors try to remove or get the patient to avoid Asthma triggers such as "animal dander" (eg. Fur or hairs). These are very likely to trigger an Asthma attack. Places where animals dwell are advised to be kept clear of for a sufferer. Since it is impossible to remove or avoid all triggers there are medications that can be taken. Such as -
- Anti - Inflammatory Drugs : these reduce swelling of the windpipe and it's lining.
Oral Steroids - prednisone and prednisolone quickly reduce inflammation during an attack.
Inhaled medicines - such as cromoyln sodium and inhaled corticosteroids keep inflammation from flaring up.
- Bronchodilators : relax the muscles which have tightened around the windpipe.
Adrenergic bronchodilators ("Beta 2 agonists") provide temporary relief but do not treat inflammation. These are available as an Inhaler or a tablet form. Unfortunately the tablets are slower and have a few side affects.
Theophylline is available in a liquid, capsule or tablet form. This drug has a long duration of action making it a very good soother for "night time" Asthma.
Ways of preventing asthma
There are no ways of preventing Asthma because it is usually genetic, allergically related or following a dose of bronchitis, but there are ways to prevent it from flaring up and turning into an attack.
A sufferer can be very careful about his or hers diet because the diet can greatly affect the Asthma. Due to allergic reactions etc.
Staying away from pollens and animal fur settles down Asthma. The allergic reactions are the highest causes of Asthma.
Make sure you always have medication with you such as Intal and Becotide. These preventative medicines will stop an attack occurring.
For an Asthma sufferer breathing can sometimes be a great difficulty due to the fact that at any time their wind pipe can shrink due to inflammation, making it very hard to breathe. But with the right medication eg. Inhalers and Theophylline their life can be much easier. If they also stay away from triggers such as pollen, fur and cigarette smoke the air ways may not be so vulnerable.
Even if you don't have Asthma you should keep an eye out for the symptoms which are - chest and lung tightness, wheezing and loss of breath especially in cold weather.