WHAT IS ASTHMA?
Asthma is a disease of the lungs and airways. There is inflammation or swelling of the lining of the bronchial tubes and constriction (tightening) of the muscles around the airways, causing the inside of the airway tubes to be narrower. As a result, you may experience chest tightness, shortness of breath, cough and wheezing. Some people also cough up phlegm (mucus) as well.
Asthma is often put into categories or groups based on the triggers or situations that cause asthma symptoms. Asthma is often categorized as allergic, non-allergic, nocturnal, exercise induced and occupational to name a few. But no matter what type of asthma you may have, the right treatment plan may help prevent symptoms. Talk to your doctor about the right plan for you.
WHAT TRIGGERS AN ASTHMA ATTACK?
People with asthma can be sensitive to a number of "triggers". When exposed to something they are sensitive to, the person with asthma may have a worsening of their usual asthma symptoms. Some of these triggers include:
Respiratory viruses, especially the common cold virus
Smoke (tobacco, wood)
Dust (including microscopic house dust mites)
Pet allergens (cat, dog, bird, and rodent)
Pollens (trees and grasses in spring, weeds and ragweed in fall, cedar in the winter)
Molds, mildew and fungi (indoor and outdoor)
Emotions (laughter, crying, stress)
Strong odors (perfumes, cleaning solutions, scented soaps, hairspray, deodorant, after-shave)
Foods and medications (rare cause of asthma)
Allergic asthma is triggered by an allergic reaction to allergens such as pollen or pet dander. If you have allergic asthma, you probably have a personal and/or family history of allergies, such as allergic rhinitis or hay fever, and/or eczema (a skin problem resulting in itching, a red rash, and sometimes small blisters).
Keep in mind that one form of allergic asthma is seasonal asthma, which usually affects people in the spring or early autumn. For example, you may find that your asthma is worse in the spring when there is an increase in flowering plants, while others find their asthma is worse in the late summer or early fall due to ragweed or mold from leaves on trees.
IS ASTHMA CONTAGIOUS?
Asthma is not a contagious disease. However, it does seem to be influenced by genes. In other words, if a member of your family has asthma, you are more likely to have asthma. There are quite a few other risk factors which affect the severity of asthma. These factors can vary depending on whether you are a child or an adult.CAN ASTHMA BE CURED?
Although some children seem to "outgrow" their asthma, asthma cannot be cured. Avoiding the triggers that may cause asthma symptoms will also help alleviate the frequence of asthma attacks. However, there are medications that can control it and minimize symptoms. These fall into two main groups: medications that control the inflammation of the airways, and medications that relieve symptoms.LONG TERM CONTROL MEDICATIONS
These medications need to be taken every day as ordered by your physician, regardless of whether you do or do not have symptoms. They decrease the inflammation in the airways. It may take months for you to notice their effect on your symptoms. Before you stop using the controller medication, you should speak with your doctor or nurse. Controller medications should not be used in an acute attack. Examples of controller medications are inhaled corticosteroids, oral corticosteroids, long -acting bronchodilators and inhaler non-steroid medications.QUICK RELIEF (RESCUE) MEDICATIONS
These medications are used to treat acute attacks or relieve symptoms. Your reliever medication should be available at all times. They work quickly, but their effects only last 3-4 hours. Examples of "rescue inhalers" are xopenex, albuterol , proventil, ventolin and proair.
The most important thing you can do to help prevent asthma symptoms is to follow your treatment plan that your doctor provides. But minimizing asthma triggers can also be a big help. Asthma can become a life-threatening situation. If a quick-relief rescue inhaler does not relieve symptoms you should contact your physician for instructions or call 911.