Are There Special Considerations In Treating Asthma In Older Adults
Yes. First of all, treatment of asthma for older adults can be complicated by the fact that so many older people take multiple medications for various health conditions. Some asthma medications can react with those other treatments, causing unpleasant side effects. In addition, other medications may actually worsen asthma symptoms.
Secondly, older patients are more likely than younger patients to have mental confusion or memory problems. This may be the result of normal aging or of an illness, such as Alzheimers disease. Whatever the cause, these problems can make it difficult for certain older patients to follow treatment instructions especially if that person takes medications for a variety of health conditions.
Additionally, many asthma medications come in the form of an L-shaped metered dose inhaler which requires a certain degree of manual coordination and dexterity. Older people are more likely to have difficulty with this type of medication device, and in using it, may not receive the correct dose. Treatment with a dry powder inhaler or oral medications can help older asthma patients avoid problems with use of L-shaped inhalers.
Create An Asthma Action Plan
Both adults and children need to create an asthma action plan to outline what type of medicine they should take and when. It will also provide details for what to do when a persons asthma is dangerously out of control. These instructions will help you, your child, friends and relatives know when its time to change treatments or seek emergency care.
To make this plan, discuss your treatment options with your doctor. Plan what you should do in the event of an asthma flare-up. Define at what point you need to increase treatment measures to prevent or reduce an attack.
List what triggers can be avoided and the best ways to avoid them. Share this plan with friends, relatives, and any caregivers your children may have. Together, you will be able to successfully treat your or your childs asthma and avoid future complications.
Surprising Signs Of Adult
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That persistent cough that keeps you up at night may stem from more than just a tickle in the back of your throat. It could be adult-onset asthma.
Many people experience a jolt of disbelief when they are diagnosed with asthma later in life, especially if they have never experienced symptoms before. Asthma? That condition that causes kids to wheeze?
It turns out adult-onset asthma is far more common than many people realize. Asthma is often considered a disease of children, so adults may be surprised when they are diagnosed with asthma, says pulmonologist Javier Pérez-Fernández, M.D., the critical care director at Baptist Hospital of Miami.
The number of people with asthma grows every year. Currently, more than 26 million Americans have asthma, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Of those cases, more than 20 million are among adults, with the greatest number of cases among ages 35 and 65.
Asthma is a chronic inflammation of the lung airways that can lead to coughing, chest tightness, shortness of breath or wheezing. Among adults who develop asthma later in life, the symptoms may initially be more subtle than in children, which can cause patients to overlook or ignore the condition. But its important to treat symptoms as soon as possible so they dont become severe, said Dr. Pérez-Fernández, who also serves as director of pulmonology for West Kendall Baptist Hospital.
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Asthma Medication Is Important
Asthma can be well-controlled with the appropriate medication in almost all people. To maintain and improve your asthma control both in the short and long term, it is important to continue to take your asthma medications and discuss any symptoms and concerns with your doctor, nurse or pharmacist.
The main types of medication are:
- preventers that slowly make the airways less sensitive to triggers by reducing swelling and mucus inside the airways. This medication is taken daily. There are also combination preventer medications containing two different medications.
- relievers that act quickly to relieve symptoms by relaxing the tight muscles around the airways. This medication is used during an asthma attack
Preparing For Your Appointment
To prepare for your appointment, see the topic Making the Most of Your Appointment.
You can help your doctor diagnose and treat your condition by being prepared to answer the following questions:
- How long have you been troubled with a sleep problem?
- What is your major symptom?
- Does your sleep problem come and go or does it occur every night?
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How Do You Treat Allergies
Most allergy treatment involves prescription or over-the-counter antihistamines, which treat allergy symptoms. As mentioned, Epinephrine is also used to treat severe allergic reactions.
Other allergy treatments include various forms of immunotherapy, most commonly allergy shots and allergy drops. Both allergy shots and allergy drops expose the immune system to small amounts of one or more allergens at predetermined intervals. Allergen doses start small, then gradually increase. The goal of the treatment is to retrain the immune system to recognize the allergen as not dangerous, decreasing the frequency or severity of allergy symptoms.
Allergy shots and allergy drops are the only current treatment methods that reduce sensitivity to an allergen itself, instead of just treating the allergy symptoms. If youre interested in either option, speak to an experienced allergist.
Can You Develop Allergies Later In Life
It is certainly possible to develop allergies in adulthood. Adult-onset allergies can occur seemingly out of nowhere due to exposure to new allergens in the environment, family history and changes in the immune system. The most common food allergies in adults are peanuts, fish, shellfish such as shrimp, lobster and tree nuts .
Theres no way to avoid getting adult-onset allergies if youre susceptible to them, since you cant reasonably expect to know every trigger that could cause an allergic reaction and then avoid it. In addition, there is some recent research that indicates avoiding allergens can make it more likely for an individual to develop allergies, because the immune system is unfamiliar with more substances.
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The Importance Of Controlling Your Asthma
Regardless of the type or severity of asthma you have, your physician should focus on controlling it. You cannot control the type or severity of asthma you have BUT you can focus on achieving control of your disease.
Uncontrolled asthma is defined as:
- Poor symptom control OR
- More than two exacerbations/year OR
- At least one hospitalization or ICU stay per year OR
- Low lung function
Achieving asthma control is the central focus in the management of patients with asthma. Your goal should be to be able to live a productive and symptom-free life with asthma.
What Should I Do If I Develop Adult Onset Allergies
If you believe you have developed allergies as an adult, avoid any suspected allergens while you are waiting to see your allergist. Your allergist may order some tests such as blood or skin tests to further evaluate your allergies.
If allergy testing confirms a diagnosis of allergy, your allergist will work with you to develop a treatment plan including avoidance measures, medications, and/or other treatment options such as immunotherapy for environmental allergies.
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How Is The Condition Diagnosed
To diagnose asthma, your physician will question you about your symptoms, perform a physical exam, and conduct lung function tests. You also may be tested for allergies.
Your internist or family physician may refer you to an allergist or pulmonologist for specialized testing or treatment.
After middle age, most adults experience a decrease in their lung capacity. These changes in lung function may lead some physicians to overlook asthma as a possible diagnosis.
Untreated asthma can contribute to even greater permanent loss of lung function. If you have any asthma symptoms, dont ignore them, and dont try to treat them yourself. Get a definitive diagnosis from your health care provider.
How Is Asthma Classified
Asthma is classified into four categories based upon frequency of symptoms and objective measures, such as peak flow measurements and/or spirometry results. These categories are: mild intermittent mild persistent moderate persistent and severe persistent. Your physician will determine the severity and control of your asthma based on how frequently you have symptoms and on lung function tests. It is important to note that a person’s asthma symptoms can change from one category to another.
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Finding The Right Asthma Treatment
I worried that I always would be held back by uncontrolled asthma, but my amazing doctor finally found a medication that really worked for me.
We made an asthma treatment plan, and I started taking Symbicort, a combination of a steroid and a long-acting bronchodilator . It works both as a daily preventative and as a rescue inhaler during an attack.
I also have a second rescue inhaler, Ventolin, in case I need more help.
It can be tricky to use a traditional inhaler during an attack and to know how much is left in it. Which is why Im glad I switched to an accuhaler.
This type of inhaler is breath activated. As soon as I put my mouth over the mouthpiece, it releases a premeasured dose of the medication. It comes loaded with 60 doses and has a counter on it, so I can see exactly how many Ive used.
Ive made some lifestyle changes too. I am careful to monitor my allergies during spring and autumn, and I ensure I stay indoors during bushfire season and on really windy days. Asthma awareness is generally high in Australia, so theres a lot of fuss made about air quality and conditions that may impact people with asthma.
Every year, without fail, I get the flu shot. The last thing I want is to get the flu and be laid low for weeks on end.
The combination of medication and these changes has allowed me to effectively manage my asthma, and I havent had a severe attack in several years.
Causes And Triggers Of Asthma
Asthma is caused by swelling of the breathing tubes that carry air in and out of the lungs. This makes the tubes highly sensitive, so they temporarily narrow.
It may happen randomly or after exposure to a trigger.
Common asthma triggers include:
- smoke, pollution and cold air
- infections like colds or flu
Identifying and avoiding your asthma triggers can help you keep your symptoms under control.
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How To Get A Diagnosis
The first thing to do is book an appointment. Your GP or an asthma nurse can help confirm or rule out a diagnosis of asthma.
They can do this by:
- talking about your symptoms, what sets them off, and when you get them
- asking if anyone else in the family has asthma
- finding out if you, or anyone in your family, have other allergies, like hay fever
- testing how your lungs are working
- listening to your chest for any sounds of wheezing
- prescribing asthma treatments to see if they make a difference
- considering any other symptoms that might suggest something else.
Alongside a full clinical assessment by your GP, youll need some asthma tests to confirm or rule out asthma. Your GP can see how your lungs are working with tests like peak flow, spirometry, and FeNo .
Your GP can usually perform these tests during the appointment, and you can see the results straight away. But you may need to do tests again on another day before your GP can confirm you have asthma.
You may be given a peak flow meter to use at home for a couple of weeks. This is so you can record your own peak flow scores in a diary.
When you take it back to your appointment, your GP or asthma nurse will be able to see a pattern of scores that could suggest asthma.
Trying out asthma treatments
Your GP or asthma nurse may prescribe asthma treatments to see if they help. This is sometimes called a trial of treatment.
If your symptoms start to get better, it suggests you could have asthma.
Vaccine Distribution In Canada
As part of the Canadian Thoracic Societys COVID-19 Respiratory Roundtable panel representing Canadians living with lung disease, Asthma Canada signed a joint statement titled Prioritization of Canadians with Lung Disease in COVID-19 Vaccination Rollout. Alongside other lung health organizations, Asthma Canada is urging federal, provincial and territorial governments to prioritize people living with lung disease who are at higher risk for more serious COVID-19 complications in the vaccination rollout. From Canadians living with a lung disease such as asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease , cystic fibrosis, lung cancer, pulmonary fibrosis, pulmonary hypertension, and pre- and post-lung transplant, there is widespread concern regarding when in the vaccine rollout in the provinces and territories they will have the opportunity to receive the vaccine.
We will continue to advocate for our community on this subject and will share more information as it becomes available.
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What Is The Best Way To Live With Asthma
The key to good living with asthma is developing a strong partnership between patients, caregivers, and physicians. Practical steps include the following:
Make an asthma care management plan with your physician. An asthma management plan helps you understand what to do when specific situations arise. Each time you visit the physician, talk about your plan, and make any necessary changes.
Educate yourself. Stay informed about the latest developments in asthma and allergy care and treatment. Ask your physician about new medications or research findings that may relate to your care.
Get regular medical care. If you have asthma, you should see your physician at least once a year, even if your symptoms are under control. When you become sick, or if you have significant changes in your health, you should also talk with your physician about how your asthma could be affected.
Take your medicine. Your asthma medications will make you feel better and sometimes people think thats the time to stop. Its not! Use your medications as prescribed.
With good management, asthma symptoms can be controlled. Most people who develop adult onset asthma are able to lead normal lives. Expect success!
I Need To Be Prepared At All Times For An Asthma Attack And Others Can Help
When you have asthma, its very much a family thing all hands on deck, says Kendra Sommer, who is in her mid-twenties,and was diagnosed with severe asthma as a child in 1994 but now has milder, well-controlled asthma.
Sommer runs a production company in Green Bay, Wisconsin, called Cruisin with Kendra and travels frequently: When I go on flights, my rescue inhaler is always in the carry-on its always nearby.
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Asthma Is Not Just A Childhood Condition That Everyone Outgrows
Like Sommer, some people do outgrow childhood asthma or have much milder symptoms as adults.
For others, symptoms persist into adulthood. Imhoff says, I was diagnosed at age 4, and as I got older, my asthma actually got worse instead of improving. I dont remember not worrying about it.
And others wont develop asthma until theyre well into adulthood. ONeal was 40 years old when she first experienced symptoms.
Managing Your Asthma Well In Later Life
Continue to have regular asthma reviews
Whether youve had asthma all your life or youve been diagnosed with it as an older adult, an asthma review helps you stay on top of any changes in your symptoms.
You can make sure your asthma action plan is up to date, review your asthma medicines, and check youre taking the lowest dose possible to stay well and avoid side effects.
Track your symptoms
Keeping track of your symptoms makes it easier to spot any changes. Write down your symptoms in a diary, notebook, or on your phone and take it along to your next appointment.
Remember to make a note of anything you were doing that day or any triggers you came across – you may notice youre sensitive to new things that were not a problem before.
Dont ignore symptoms like breathlessness, says Dr Andy. Its easy to think that feeling a bit more breathless is just another sign that youre not as fit as you used to be.
But if youre feeling out of breath climbing stairs or walking uphill, see your GP to get it checked out. Breathlessness can be a sign that your asthma is not well controlled. It could also be a sign of another health condition.
Act quickly if symptoms get worse
To cut your risk of an asthma attack, take action as soon as you notice symptoms getting worse. As we get older, asthma attacks can be more severe and take longer to recover from.
Check your inhaler technique
Ask about side effects
Get help for other conditions too
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