Asthma: The Medical Facts

Asthma is the second part on the Allergy Triad, which we discussed a couple of weeks ago.  You can read Our Allergy Home: Asthma experience as well.

I’m sure many of you are familiar with asthma, maybe more so than food allergies or eczema.  Like me five years ago, though, it may be a whole new world.

Asthma is an inflammatory disorder of the airways causing them to swell.  The swelling reduces the amount of air passing through the airways, causing wheezing, shortness of breath, chest tightness and coughing.  Like many other allergies and eczema, asthma may be related to a family history of asthma or allergies.  Twenty-two million Americans are affected by asthma every year.  Asthma among children is on the rise, but with careful monitoring and action, asthma can be kept under control.

Common asthma triggers (or allergy-causing substances) include:

  • Animals (pet hair or dander)
  • Dust
  • Changes in weather (cold weather)
  • Chemicals in air or food
  • Exercise
  • Mold
  • Pollen
  • Respiratory Infections, such as a cold
  • Stress
  • Tobacco smoke
  • Aspirin can cause asthma in some people

Asthma can attack at any minute and can last for minutes or days.  There are typically symptom-free periods between attacks.  As noted above, the symptoms include:

  • cough
  • retractions of the lungs – pulling in of skin between the ribs
  • shortness of breath
  • wheezing, of varying degrees
  • unable to speak long without taking a breath

Emergency symptoms include:

  • blue lips or face
  • lethargy
  • extreme difficulty breathing
  • rapid pulse
  • severe anxiety due to breathing problems
  • sweating

There are two ways to treat asthma:

  • control drugs/inhaler to prevent an attack
  • rescue inhaler for use during an attack

Like an epi-pen is to food allergies, a rescue inhaler is to asthma sufferers.  You must carry it with you everywhere.  You must also be seen by a doctor immediately if an asthma attack cannot be controlled by a rescue inhaler.

Besides a regular control medication, there are other ways to prevent asthma triggers:

  • cover bedding with dust mite (or allergen) covers
  • remove carpets from bedroom (or entire house, if possible)
  • vacuum regularly
  • use unscented detergents and other household cleaners
  • keep humidity low
  • fix water leaks to prevent mold
  • try to remove animals from the home, or at least the bedroom
  • eliminate tobacco smoke from the home and other frequented locations
  • avoid air pollution

Do you suffer from asthma? Am I missing anything on this medical fact sheet?



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2 Responses to Asthma: The Medical Facts

  1. Sarah P. says:

    My daughter started to wheeze and cough a lot as infant, often at night time. We thought it was a cold that wouldn’t go away. We often took her to the doctor, to be told that it is normal, and don’t worry. When she was 15 months she went to the allergy doctor for testing and we mentioned her breathing difficulties. He told us that she has “reactive airway disease”. Since then she has been on Singulair daily and a nebulizer as needed. Last month, she has need the nebulizer a lot more then normal. I’m wondering if that relates to her environmental allergies. Do you know of any good books to read up on asthma? We have had a lot of guidance and instruction in general but I still feel like I’m behind the learning curve. Thanks for your asthma, allergies, and eczema series.

    • Cook says:

      Sorry for taking so long to reply to you. My computer has been out of service for a few days. I can’t really recommend any asthma books as when we were first presented with asthma about 6 years ago, I was clueless. I think I got most of my info from various doctors and online. My son had several years of hospital visits because of his asthma. It has been under control for the last few years though.

      I’m assuming you know some of the asthma basics. Just in case you don’t, I’ll review a little of what I know (and can think of off the top of my head):

      – Try not to have carpet in your daughters bedroom.
      – Use allergy dust covers for bedding & mattresses. Wash the bedding in hot water often.
      – No animals.
      – Windows closed.
      – Hepa filter on furnace.

      I find it interesting that your daughter has been tested for environmental allergies already. Our allergist said that they typically don’t appear on tests until they are a bit older because it takes longer for the allergens to build up in their systems. My son wasn’t tested until he was 6. Has she been tested for food allergies? It is often thought that people with wheat sensitivities have a very tough time in the spring season with the grasses growing. Having said that, it takes 4 weeks for wheat to go out of your body once you quit eating it. Is the nebulizer treatment a preventative treatment or rescue treatment? If it’s not a preventative (like flovent, for example), you may want to talk to your doctor about going that route with your daughter. My son goes on flovent during his peak asthma seasons, like spring & fall (although this has improved greatly) and when he gets a viral infection (like a cold). I truly believed that the preventative treatment has kept him out of asthma danger since going on it.

      I hope that helps. I want to be careful not to give medical advice because I am not a doctor. But there may be a few things that you can discuss with your doctor from the things that I have experienced and mentioned here. Let me know if I can be of further help to you.

      ~ Michelle

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