Asthma is a chronic inflammatory disease in the lungs that causes your airways to get inflamed and narrow. Breathing becomes difficult, and a whistling sound (wheezing) can be heard when you breathe out.
It's a condition that cannot be cured; however, its symptoms can be controlled. For some people, asthma is a minor inconvenience, while for others, it can be a major problem that interferes with their daily activities and can be life-threatening at times.
Symptoms of asthma
Some major signs of asthma are:
● Shortness of breath—when you have asthma, the bands of muscles around your airways become tightened, making it harder for you to breathe properly
● Chest tightness
● Wheezing, a whistling sound when you breath out
● Insomnia due to shortness of breath
● Coughing, especially at night or during exercise
Types of Asthma
Following are different types of asthma:
● Early childhood asthma—look for signs like:
○ Lack of energy
○ Coughing while playing
○ Saying their chest hurts
○ Whistling sound while breathing
○ Shortness of breath
○ Tight neck
● Adult-onset asthma—it can start at any age but is more common in people younger than 40.
● Allergic asthma—the following allergens trigger this type of asthma:
○ Pet dander from cats and dogs
● Non-allergenic asthma—Irritants in the air trigger this type of asthma:
○ Cigarette smoke
○ Air pollution
○ Viral illness
○ Air fresheners
○ Household disinfecting and cleaning products
● Occupational asthma—it's the type of asthma induced by triggers in your workplace like:
○ Rubber latex
● Exercise-induced bronchoconstriction—it occurs within a few minutes of starting exercise, and it may last 10 to 15 minutes after you stop. It happens when you breathe in air that's drier than what you breathe out.
● Nocturnal asthma—symptoms worsen at night in this type of asthma
● Aspirin-induced asthma—it is usually severe and is triggered by taking aspirin or other NSAIDs. People with this type of asthma typically have nasal polyps.
There is no single test to confirm the diagnosis; instead, the diagnosis depends on a variety of tests. The following can be used to deduce a diagnosis:
● History—a family history of breathing problems increases your risk of developing asthma. Do tell your doctor about your genetic history.
● Examination—your doctor will listen to your breathing with a stethoscope and look for any abnormality in your breathing. Allergens which trigger your asthma will also be looked at
● Breathing tests—pulmonary function tests (PFTS) and spirometry can be performed to measure the airflow and the speed of air into and out of your lungs
These breathing tests are usually not performed in children under 5 years of age because it's difficult to teach them what to do and get an accurate reading. Instead, asthma medications may be prescribed to them to see if their symptoms improve or not.
The key to getting your asthma under control are the medicines prescribed, but you can follow some things at home to help yourself, such as:
● Avoid the allergens that trigger your condition
● Exercise regularly
● Keep a healthy weight, as an asthmatic attack is worse in people who are obese
● Eat a healthy diet
● Do breathing exercises regularly
● Quit smoking.
● Manage your stress. Stress can trigger asthma symptoms, and it can make stopping an asthma attack more difficult.
If you haven't been diagnosed with asthma as yet but are experiencing the symptoms stated above, you should let your doctor know. Once you're diagnosed with it, you will be able to take care of yourself better.