Explaining Your Symptoms To Your Gp
Its a good idea to start a diary of your symptoms before speaking to your GP. Taking note of when symptoms flare-up may help you to understand your triggers. This diary will then help your GP to understand and properly assess your condition. You could also try filming your symptoms if they are hard to describe.
There are several different tests for asthma – so your GP wont be able to diagnose you straightaway. Our advice on diagnosing asthma explains this process in more detail.
Take A Preventative Stance
If youre especially sensitive to springtime allergens, use air conditioning in the house and car to limit your exposure. If youve been outdoors, wash your hair and clothes when you get home to get rid of those allergens. Clear your nasal passages with a Neti pot or other nasal irrigation method. Indoors, try to clear your house of allergens that trigger you.
What Asthma Treatment Options Are There
You have options to help manage your asthma. Your healthcare provider may prescribe medications to control symptoms. These include:
- Anti-inflammatory medicines: These medicines reduce swelling and mucus production in your airways. They make it easier for air to enter and exit your lungs. Your healthcare provider may prescribe them to take every day to control or prevent your symptoms.
- Bronchodilators: These medicines relax the muscles around your airways. The relaxed muscles let the airways move air. They also let mucus move more easily through the airways. These medicines relieve your symptoms when they happen.
- Biologic therapies for asthma when symptoms persist despite being on proper inhaler therapy.
You can take asthma medicines in several different ways. You may breathe in the medicines using a metered-dose inhaler, nebulizer or other inhaler. Your healthcare provider may prescribe oral medications that you swallow.
Also Check: What Does A Nebulizer Do For Asthma
How Are These Conditions Ruled Out And Asthma Correctly Diagnosed
To make an asthma diagnosis and make sure your symptoms are not caused by another condition, your doctor will review your medical history, family history, and symptoms. They will be interested in any history of breathing problems you might have had, as well as a family history of asthma or other lung conditions, allergies, or a skin disease called eczema, which is related to allergies. It is important that you describe your symptoms in detail , including when and how often they occur.
You will be asked if you smoke now or have ever smoked. Smoking with asthma is a serious problem. Smoking is also a major factor in certain asthma mimics, including COPD and cancer. You will also be asked about past exposure to harmful chemicals, possibly at a job.
Your doctor will also perform a physical examination and listen to your heart and lungs.
There are many tests your doctor might perform, including lung function tests, allergy tests, blood tests, and chest and sinus X-rays. All of these tests can help your doctor determine if you have asthma and if there are other conditions affecting it.
For more information, see WebMD’s article on Asthma Tests.
What Are Risk Factors For Hypersensitivity Pneumonitis
If you work in jobs such as the following, you may be more likely to get hypersensitivity pneumonitis:
- Paper and wallboard makers
- Inhaling certain chemicals produced in making plastic, painting, and the electronics industry
Most people who work in these jobs dont get hypersensitivity pneumonitis. If you work in one of these jobs and have a family history, however, you may get the disease.
Recommended Reading: What Helps Asthma Attacks Without An Inhaler
Conditions That Mimic Asthma
There are a number of conditions that can cause shortness of breath, wheezing, coughing, and chest tightness. While most are related to the lungs and respiratory system, others are associated with other organ systems, such as the heart and respiratory tract.
When investigating potential asthma, your doctor will consider all possible causes of your breathing difficulty in a process called differential diagnosis.
Pollen As An Asthma Trigger
Pollen is naturally released into the atmosphere by plants, trees and weeds at certain parts of the year. It is made of different types of proteins that most of people dont react to. But, the research seems to suggest that roughly one in five people will experience a hyperactive response to pollen, leading to the release of histamine into the system and the subsequent symptoms such as:
- Itchy or red eyes
Don’t Miss: What Does A Nebulizer Do For Asthma
Wheezing Is Also A Symptom Of Whats Known As Allergic Asthma A Person May Be Allergic To Something That Sets Off Wheezing And/or Coughing Fishbein Said Every Once In A While Someone Will Not Have Asthma And Have Very Isolated Allergic Reactions To Things Mostly Seen With Pets Like Cats Or Dogs They Will Only Wheeze In That Scenario But Never Other Times
According to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, half of the 20 million Americans who have asthma have the allergic type of asthma, in which something specific sets off their attack.
Bronchitis, meanwhile, mostly occurs as the result of an infection. However, adult smokers who cough a lot are said to have chronic bronchitis. Again, this is semantics, and one physician might call something bronchitis that another calls asthma, Fishbein said.
Patients likely would;need a methacholine challenge;to discern whether they have asthma, said Fishbein. Physicians can administer the methacholine challenge test , which is widely used to evaluate for airway hyperresponsiveness, a hallmark sign of asthma.
Regardless of the diagnosis or the cause of the symptoms, patients with any difficulty breathing, coughing, wheezing or chest tightness should see their primary care doctor for an evaluation. If their doctor suspects an allergic cause, patients may be referred to an allergist. If at any time breathing becomes extremely difficult, patients should head straight to the emergency room.
Food And Food Additives Trigger Asthma
Food allergies can cause mild to severe life-threatening reactions. They rarely cause asthma without other symptoms. If you have food allergies, asthma can be part of a severe, life-threatening reaction called anaphylaxis. The most common foods associated with allergic symptoms are:
- Fresh fruits
Food preservatives can trigger isolated asthma, especially sulfite additives, like sodium bisulfite, potassium bisulfite, sodium metabisulfite, potassium metabisulfite, and sodium sulfite, which are commonly used in food processing or preparation.
Don’t Miss: Benefits Of Humidifier For Asthma
The Quality Of The Sensation And What It Might Mean
Many things contribute to a sensation of shortness of breath,7 and the symptom breaks down into three messily overlapping qualities, which are interesting but dont tell us much about whats going on, just a couple rough clues:
- Effort: a sensation of excessive work or effort to breathe, like breathing is just a slog. It is loosely associated with impairment of the muscular function and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease .
- Tightness: feeling tight may involve actual contstriction of airways as would occur in the early stages of an asthma attack . However, tightness can also be caused by actual spasticity of respiratory muscles, which could be ordinary muscle pain or more serious, like the infamous squeezing hug of multiple sclerosis.
- Air hunger: the most complex sensation, unsatisfied inspiration is described by patients in many ways, like starved for air or my breaths feel too small. Of the treatable causes, it is most clearly associated with anxiety. Although it sure doesnt feel like it, it can occur without any actual loss of respiratory capacity.
The Asthma Is Usually Linked To Allergic Rhinitis
Environmental allergies can affect your airway in unique ways:
- Allergic rhinitis affects your nose and sinuses, and may cause sneezing, congestion, and an itchy nose and eyes.
- Asthma mainly affects your lungs, and may cause coughing, wheezing, chest tightness, shortness of breath or rapid breathing.
But when you have allergic asthma, youll likely develop both sets of symptoms at once.
In children, the signs can be more subtle, notes Dr. Purcell.;Kids may say theyre too tired to play, but parents should check for wheezing or coughing. If the other kids are running around playing, and your child wants to sit on the sidelines, he or she may be having trouble breathing, he says.
Recommended Reading: Best Painkiller For Asthmatic Patients
How Do You Monitor Asthma Symptoms
Monitoring your asthma symptoms is an essential piece of managing the disease. Your healthcare provider may have you use a peak flow meter. This device measures how fast you can blow air out of your lungs. It can help your provider make adjustments to your medication. It also tells you if your symptoms are getting worse.
What Should I Do If I Have A Severe Asthma Attack
A severe asthma attack needs immediate medical care. The first step is your rescue inhaler. A rescue inhaler uses fast-acting medicines to open up your airways. Its different than your normal maintenance inhaler, which you use every day. You should only use the rescue inhaler in an emergency.
If your rescue inhaler doesnt help or you dont have it with you, go to the emergency department if you have:
- Anxiety or panic.
- Bluish fingernails, bluish lips or gray or whitish lips or gums .
- Chest pain or pressure.
You May Like: What Can Help Asthma Without An Inhaler
About Shortness Of Breath
To understand shortness of breath, its important to first understand how normal breathing takes place in the body. Its a complex process that uses chemicals and mechanical processes to ensure that every cell of the body has the oxygen it needs to function and perform activities. The following images illustrate every step in the process:
When Is It Abnormal
Some breathlessness is normal, such as after hard exercising or when you have a stuffy nose. However, it is a problem when it is greater than expected for a given level of physical effort.1
If shortness of breath continues for more than a month, it is considered chronic.1 Shortness of breath also can come on suddenly. Breathlessness is a symptom of many different conditions, so your medical history and a physical examination will provide important clues to the cause. For about two-thirds of patients, the signs and symptoms are enough to make an accurate diagnosis.1 Occasionally, additional tests may be needed.
Don’t Miss: Can You Have Asthma In The Military
How Does Asthma Affect You Physically
When you experience a trigger, the insides of your airways swell even more. This narrows the space for air to move in and out of the lungs. The muscles that wrap around your airways also can tighten, making breathing even harder. When that happens, its called an asthma flare-up, asthma episode or asthma attack.
An Introduction To Tight Chests And Hayfever
People afflicted by asthma may also be prone to hayfever. In fact asthma and hayfever are often grouped together and termed atopy by doctors. This is because the individual has an increased tendency to develop allergies and typical symptoms of chest tightness and wheezing often occur in both conditions. Atopic individuals can also be prone to skin allergies or eczema.
Recommended Reading: Can You Join The Marines With Asthma
What To Do If You Have Shortness Of Breath
If you are exerting yourself when it happens, Dr. Quddus recommends slowing down and sitting down. Try to calm yourself with slow, deep breaths where you inhale through your nose and breathe out through your mouth.
If you’re out of breath for a few minutes to hours, you should still see your doctor. Even if you can chalk it up to cold temperatures or exposure to dust or fumes, this is not a normal reaction. “There are breathing tests we can do to see if you have undiagnosed asthma,” Dr. Quddus says.
Right now, in winter, it’s likely that your physical fitness has declined if you’re not getting out as much.
“Deconditioning is really common right now given the time of year and being in lockdown,” Dr. Quddus says.
However, you can’t just assume that’s the case. If there’s a change in your perceived fitness level from your baseline as in, yesterday you could walk up a few flights of stairs just fine and now you huff and puff after the first set see your doctor.
And remember, call 911 immediately if you think you’re having a heart attack.
Know The Asthma Symptoms In Children
Asthma affects as many as 10% to 12% of children in the United States and is the leading cause of chronic illness in children. For unknown reasons, the incidence of asthma in children is steadily increasing. While asthma symptoms can begin at any age, most children have their first asthma symptoms by age 5.
Not all children with asthma wheeze. Chronic coughing with asthma may be the only obvious sign, and a childâs asthma may go unrecognized if the cough is attributed to recurrent bronchitis.
For more detail, see WebMDâs Asthma in Children.
Read Also: Diy Asthma Inhaler
What Causes Wheezing 10 Possible Reasons
Wheezing is a whistling sound that can be heard while breathing. This sound develops as air moves through narrowed airways and is most noticeable when you exhale though it can also be heard when you breathe in. Sometimes you can produce a kind of whistling sound when your nose gets congested too. This usually happens when you have a cold or nasal allergy. But unlike wheezing breathing will not be tight in this case. And rinsing your nasal passages with saline water can make the sound disappear.1 Wheezing usually points to deeper breathing problems. Lets take a look at some conditions that can cause it:
A Problem With Your Lungs Or Airways
Sudden breathlessness could be an asthma attack. This means your airways have narrowed and you’ll produce more phlegm , which causes you to wheeze and cough. You’ll feel breathless because it’s difficult to move air in and out of your airways.
Your GP may advise you to use a spacer device with your asthma inhaler. This delivers more medicine to your lungs, helping to relieve your breathlessness.
Pneumonia may also cause shortness of breath and a cough. It’s usually caused by an infection, so you’ll need to take antibiotics.
If you have COPD, it’s likely your breathlessness is a sign this condition has suddenly got worse.
Recommended Reading: How Does Weed Help Asthma
Causes Of Shortness Of Breath
Heart and lung conditions cause most cases of shortness of breath. You may feel shortness of breath for many reasons. Factors can include your overall health, medical history, and genetics. Talk to a health care provider to find out more about why you feel shortness of breath.
Acute Shortness of Breath
Acute shortness of breath can come on suddenly and last for a short period of time. Causes include:
- Increased fluid around the heart
- Panic attacks
Chronic Shortness of Breath
Shortness of breath can also be chronic, meaning it lasts for several weeks or longer. Causes include:
Itchy Face And Throat
Some people with asthma may also experience an itchy face and throat in addition to the more traditional symptoms of wheezing and coughing.
These itchy sensations arent related to asthma itself but may be instead attributed to allergies. If allergens trigger your asthma symptoms, then you may have a subtype called allergic asthma.
When you have allergic asthma, you may experience more traditional asthma symptoms. along with:
- itchy skin
You May Like: Homemade Asthma Inhaler
Diagnosing The Cause Of Wheezing
Your doctor will ask you questions like:
- How long have you been wheezing?
- Does it happen when you exercise?
- Do you wheeze all the time?
- Do you wheeze more during the day, or at night?
- Does rest help control it?
- Do you wheeze when you breathe in, or out, or both in and out?
- Do you smoke?
- Do certain foods seem to cause your wheezing?
Theyâll listen to your breathing and the sounds your lungs make. They might do tests like:
- X-rays to get a picture of your lungs
- Lung function tests to see how well theyâre working
- Blood test to check your oxygen levels.
If your child is wheezing, their doctor might check to see if theyâve swallowed or inhaled something small.
When To Contact A Doctor
If a person regularly experiences shortness of breath while walking, they should seek guidance from a doctor. Doctors can diagnose the cause and offer most suitable treatment options.
If a person is struggling to breathe or loses consciousness, it is necessary to contact emergency services immediately.
Read Also: How To Take Care Of Asthma Without An Inhaler
Iii: Anxietyhead Games And Shortness Of Breath
Maybe you feel so stressed that its obvious that the stress is squeezing the breath out of you or maybe its not. If youre not sure, its time to ask yourself some hard questions: could that be me? Could I be choking myself? Almost literally? Dont underestimate this possibility.
Anxiety excessive worry, either too much, or too long, or both13 is a surprisingly potent and amazingly common cause of many odd symptoms. Shortness of breath and chest pain are among the most frequently reported.
Although its common, anxiety is badly neglected as an explanation for many problems. Even though its almost the same thing as stress, many people dont recognize that they are anxious, or they deny it or minimize it. And many people just dont know that shortness of breath can be caused by anxiety! It really can.
Theres no clear explanation for how anxiety causes shortness of breath, chest pain, or any other strange symptom: its just one of those things. And while anxiety can cause shortness of breath as a direct and immediate symptom, it can also probably cause trouble indirectly by chronically eating away at us in other ways, like creating the dysfunctional breathing pattern discussed above.