Asthma causes repeated periods of wheezing (which are like whistling when breathing), tightness in the chest, difficulty breathing and coughing. Cough often occurs at night or in the early morning hours. The majority of people affected by asthma who comply with the appropriate treatment, can lead a normal life, but if they leave the treatment, asthma can cause permanent damage to the respiratory tract. On very rare occasions a severe asthma attack can be fatal.
Asthma is a common disease that affects around four million people in which 500,000 are children. It usually begins in childhood in 80% of cases, but may debut for the first time at any age. If you have asthma, your airways will become irritated and inflamed. As a result:
- They narrow.
- They produce more mucus.
This makes the flow of air in your lungs more difficult.
Symptoms of Asthma
Asthma symptoms can be mild, moderate or severe and include:
- Difficulty breathing
- Sensation of tightness in the chest
These symptoms tend to be variable and can stop and start again. They can often get worse at night.
The causes of Asthma
The cause of asthma is not always clear. However, there are often factors that can trigger the symptomatology. The most common reactions include:
- Irritations caused by dust, cigarettes and various fumes or vapors.
- Chemical by-products (and other substances) found in the workplace- is the so-called professional asthma.
- Allergies to pollen, medicines, animals, house dust mites or certain food products, especially preservatives and dyes.
- Exercise, especially in cold or dry environments.
- Emotions – very loud laughter or shouting can cause symptoms, stress accentuates.
- Medicines – certain medicines can cause asthma.
If you smoke during pregnancy, your baby will be more likely to have asthma. If you have children and smoke, your children are more likely to have it.
Diagnosis of Asthma
Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and explore you. You will probably also ask about your medical history and will ask you questions about some factors that may have caused your symptoms. Your doctor can do one or more of the following tests to confirm the diagnosis.
- The maximum expiratory flow measurement – this test measures the speed at which air is expelled from your lungs.
- Spirometry – this test also measures the speed of air flow as well as how much air flows; This test provides detailed information of the maximum flow and allows to show the functioning of your lungs.
- Chest x-ray – your primary goal is to rule out any other lung disease.
- Allergy skin tests- with which you will find out if you are allergic to certain substances.
In children under the age of five, the diagnosis can only be made by seeing if they respond to asthma treatments.
In case of Asthma Attack?
If you have an asthma attack you should follow the following steps:
- Take your bronchodilator treatment immediately, preferably with a spacer.
- Sit down (do not lie down) and try to relax.
- Wait five to ten minutes – if there is no improvement, repeat an inspiration from your bronchodilator treatment, every minute for five minutes until your symptoms disappear
- If your symptoms do not disappear, you should call your GP or an ambulance, but continue to take your bronchodilator, preferably with a spacer, every few minutes, until the requested help arrives.
- If you go to the hospital, take your asthma treatments with you.
Living with Asthma
You will have to deal with the things that cause you wrong. Keep a diary to record something that causes your asthma – this `can help you discover a model. The use of a maximum flow meter to monitor your lung function may also help. If you suddenly have low situations in a certain situation (for example at the end of a work day, after exercise or after contact with an animal) this may indicate irritation. Quitting smoking is good for your health and will improve your asthma symptoms. With good management and proper treatment, most people with asthma lead completely normal lives.