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How Does Asthma Get Worse

What Happens During An Asthma Episode

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During normal breathing, the airways to the lungs are fully open. This allows air to move in and out of the lungs freely. Asthma causes the airways to change in the following ways:

  • The airway branches leading to the lungs become overly reactive and more sensitive to all kinds of asthma triggers
  • The linings of the airways swell and become inflamed
  • Mucus clogs the airways
  • Muscles tighten around the airways
  • The lungs have difficulty moving air in and out
  • These changes narrow the airways. Breathing becomes difficult and stressful, like trying to breathe through a straw stuffed with cotton.

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    The updated guidelines also recommend a type of drug called a long-acting muscarinic antagonist to improve symptoms for these age groups. And for young children who wheeze only when they have a respiratory tract infection , the new guidelines recommend a short course of inhaled corticosteroids plus a rescue inhaler as needed. This can prevent worsening of breathing problems and forestall the need for corticosteroid pills.

    Most asthma medications are breathed in through the use of an inhaler or nebulizer. There are two main types of inhalers a metered dose inhaler , which uses a pressurized medicine-filled canister, and a dry powder inhaler , containing medicine in powdered form. A nebulizer uses a mask and delivers medication as a mist. Its important to learn the different techniques for using these devices to ensure the medicine reaches your lungs.

    There are few evidence-backed natural remedies for asthma, particularly if your case is severe. But lifestyle changes, like controlling stress, and some complementary therapies, like acupuncture, may help manage symptoms.

    Favorite Blogs About Living With Asthma

    The Asthma Allergies Children blog is the work of two physicians, both trained in allergies and immunology. The blog covers topics like medication adherence, cost of care, doctors pet peeves, integrative medicine, new research, and other news. For timely takes on noteworthy topics, check it out.

    Stephen Gaudet was born with severe asthma more than 60 years ago and started his blog back in 2004. The blog chronicles the trials and tribulations asthma has caused him, as well as the victories. To date, Gaudet has completed 21 races and nine marathons . Read more about his debilitating diagnosis and how he has overcome it.

    Additional reporting bySari Harrar.

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    You may not be able to see them, but if you have asthma, your body will know theyre there. Allergens and irritants lurk in lots of everyday places. If you breathe them in, they can bother your lungs and lead to asthma symptoms.

    When you have asthma, your symptoms can be triggered by a number of common irritants. Your triggers can be very different from those of someone else with asthma. To prevent the discomfort of asthma symptoms or even an asthma attack, learn your triggers and how to avoid them.

    When Should You See Your Doctor

    What is an asthma flare? An asthma flare is when symptoms get worse ...

    If you or a loved one are waking up at night or having difficulty breathing, your doctor can evaluate, diagnose, and provide treatments that help you rest more comfortably and safely at night.

    Kevin Farnam, M.D., board-certified allergist at the Adult & Children Allergy Asthma Center specializes in treating these conditions. Nocturnal asthma, like all chronic asthma symptoms, is controllable so that you can have the quality of life you deserve.

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    You Asked: Why Is My Asthma Worse At Night

    Suddenly, your chest tightens, and your breathing starts to resemble wheezing. Asthma attacks can be a startling experience, especially if they happen while you are asleep or nearly asleep. Genny Carrillo, MD, ScD, associate professor at the Texas A& M School of Public Health, director of the Program on Asthma Research and Education, discusses how nighttime asthma attacks can be avoided.

    Does Asthma Get Worse In Winter Heres What You Need To Know

    Have you noticed that the sudden drop in temperature has made your asthma symptoms worse?

    Its believed around 5.5 million people in the UK and Ireland are currently receiving treatment for asthma, and the charity Asthma UK says its not uncommon for asthma symptoms to get worse over the festive season.

    Looking after your respiratory health is important at any time of the year and especially so this winter, with the ongoing spread of Covid-19 to factor in too.

    Why does asthma get worse in winter?

    Asthma can be harder to control during winter months for a few reasons. Ruth Morrow, a respiratory nurse specialist from the Asthma Society of Ireland says people often find their unwelcome asthma symptoms flaring up at this time of year, because there are more triggers lurking around.

    Changes to the temperature and cold air are a very common trigger for people with asthma and they can affect the airways, causing them to narrow, says Morrow.

    Then theres all those cold and flu viruses going around. A cold or respiratory tract infection can exacerbate symptoms for people with asthma.

    Both of these triggers can irritate and inflame the airways, increasing the risk of someone with asthma having a potentially life-threatening asthma attack, says Jessica Kirby, head of health advice at Asthma UK and British Lung Foundation.

    How can I relieve asthma symptoms this winter?

    1. Manage your asthma properly

    2. Dress for the chilly weather

    3. Crank up the heating

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    How Is It Treated

    There are two parts to treating asthma, which are outlined in your asthma action plan. The goals are to:

    • Control asthma over the long term. Your asthma action plan tells you which medicine to take. It also helps you track your symptoms and know how well the treatment is working. Many people take controller medicineâusually an inhaled corticosteroidâevery day. Taking it every day helps to reduce the swelling of the airways and prevent attacks. Your doctor will show you how to use your inhaler correctly. This is very important so you get the right amount of medicine to help you breathe better.
    • Treat asthma attacks when they occur. Your asthma action plan tells you what to do when you have an asthma attack. It helps you identify triggers that can cause your attacks. You use quick-relief medicine, such as albuterol, during an attack.

    If you need to use the quick-relief inhaler more often than usual, talk to your doctor. This may be a sign that your asthma is not controlled and can cause problems.

    Asthma attacks can be life-threatening, but you may be able to prevent them if you follow a plan. Your doctor can teach you the skills you need to use your asthma action plan.

    How Do Healthcare Providers Diagnose Asthma

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    Your healthcare provider will review your medical history, including information about your parents and siblings. Your provider will also ask you about your symptoms. Your provider will need to know any history of allergies, eczema and other lung diseases.

    Your provider may order spirometry. This test measures airflow through your lungs and is used to diagnose and monitor your progress with treatment. Your healthcare provider may order a chest X-ray, blood test or skin test.

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    Treatment For Asthma Emergencies In Children

    An asthma attack can quickly become an asthma emergency, but if you take quick action, you can reduce the risk of this happening. So, if the symptoms of an asthma attack appear, follow your childs asthma action plan.

    If your child is experiencing a severe or life-threatening asthma attack, call triple zero for an ambulance and then start asthma first aid.:

    • Sit the child upright.
    • Give 4 puffs of reliever medication , taking 4 breaths for each puff. Use a spacer and mask if one is available.
    • Wait 4 minutes if the child still cannot breathe normally, give 4 more puffs.
    • Continue to give 4 separate puffs of reliever medication, taking 4 breaths for each puff, every 4 minutes until the ambulance arrives.

    Know When To Get Help

    Warning signs of a potential asthma attack include:

    • Needing more rescue inhaler medication .
    • A cough that gets worse.
    • Feeling like you canât breathe or like someoneâs sitting on your chest.
    • Waking up at night feeling like you canât breathe.
    • Not being able to be active or exercise without getting winded or wheezing.

    Use your asthma rescue inhaler medication as soon as you start to feel an attack come on. If it doesnât seem to work and you feel like you still canât breathe, call 911 so you can get to an emergency room right away.

    If you have a steroid medicine at home , you can take it on your way to the ER.

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    Why Can Cold Air Trigger Asthma

    People with asthma have airways that are more sensitive, and prone to inflammation. Cold air can lead to dryness in the airways, the tightening of the muscles around the airways and impair the normal function of the airways to clear inhaled substances. All of this can lead to an increase in asthma symptoms.

    In Australia, we are generally used to breathing warm, humid air which is what our lungs need to stay vital and healthy and clear debris that we breathe in.

    Cold and dry air conditions make it harder for our lungs to do the things it needs to in order to make our breathing easy and keep us healthy.

    Why Asthma Is Worse At Night

    know your triggers and treatment options

    Shortness of breath, wheezing, and coughing are annoying enough during the day. Waking up in the middle of a coughing fit or being unable to catch your breath in the quiet of the night is downright disturbing. Unfortunately, approximately 30 to 70% of people with asthma experience nocturnal asthma, or a worsening of asthma symptoms at night. Not everyone with asthma feels worse at night, but many do.

    Learn more about nocturnal asthma and what to do if you have nighttime asthma with cough and other symptoms.

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    Sleep On Your Back With Your Head Elevated And A Pillow Under Your Bent Knees

    Another option for back sleepers who have asthma is to sleep on your back with your head slightly elevated and a pillow under your knees. This position can improve circulation while also keeping your body stable throughout the night, which can help you breathe easier and sleep better.

    The key to finding the right sleep position for you is to experiment with what are considered the best sleeping positions for asthma patients and make notes. Pick a position, stick with it for a week or so, and record your observations about your asthma symptoms and sleep quality. Then try another position and do the same.

    Using the same sleep position for multiple nights is helpful, as it allows your body to get comfortable with that position so that the newness of it isnt a factor in your sleep quality.

    A note about right-side sleeping: Research has determined that sleeping on your right side increases resistance in the airways within the lungs. A possible cause of this difference between left-side and right-side sleep positions is that sleeping on your right side may increase whats called vagal tone, which activates the nervous system in a way that causes airway constriction. Not everyone experiences this effect, but you should keep it in mind as you experiment with sleep positions.

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    Sleep On Your Left Side With A Pillow Between Your Legs

    Many people are side sleepers. If thats you, sleeping on your left side specifically can help keep your airways open. And the addition of a pillow between your legs stabilizes your spine and may help keep you in better sleep posture.

    Sleeping on your left side is especially helpful for people who suffer from both asthma and heartburn, as heartburn can trigger asthma symptoms. Left-side sleeping takes advantage of gravity, the shape of the stomach, and the angle of the connection between the esophagus and the stomach to reduce acid reflux.

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    What To Do If You Have An Asthma Attack

    If you think you’re having an asthma attack:

  • Sit upright and try to take slow, steady breaths. Try to remain calm, as panicking will make things worse.
  • Take 1 puff of your reliever inhaler every 30 to 60 seconds, up to a maximum of 10 puffs.
  • If the ambulance hasn’t arrived within 15 minutes, repeat step 2.
  • Never be frightened of calling for help in an emergency.

    Try to take the details of your medicines or your personal asthma action plan with you to hospital if possible.

    If your symptoms improve and you don’t need to call 112 or 999, get an urgent appointment to see your GP.

    Why Is Asthma Difficult To Diagnose In Older Adults

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    A diagnosis of asthma may be missed in an older person because symptoms of other health conditions are similar to asthma symptoms and may mask the specific symptoms. Asthma symptoms among older adults are more likely to take the form of coughing with the production of sputum from the lungs. Your physician might interpret those symptoms as being due to other illnesses, such as chronic bronchitis or congestive heart failure. In particular, heart disease and emphysema, much more common in older adults, especially smokers, can mimic asthma symptoms.

    Good to know . . . One of the ways in which asthma is recognized among younger people is by the symptoms of wheezing and difficulty breathing following exercise. When older adults become inactive, the opportunity for asthma to present itself lessens. If you experience asthma symptoms wheezing, shortness of breath, tightness in the chest, chronic cough with your regular activities such as housework, shopping, gardening, or walking, be sure to talk with your physician as soon as possible.

    When the asthma symptoms are not recognized correctly, they may remain untreated, likely worsening and creating very serious health risks.

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    What Is The Treatment For Asthma

    Asthma symptoms can be treated with a variety of prescription medications that provide quick relief as well as long term control. Lifestyle changes can also reduce symptoms, especially if asthma is triggered by allergies to substances in the environment or to certain foods . Regular vaccinations for influenza and pneumonia are strongly recommended for older adults with asthma.

    Keep in mind . . . Short-term use of oral steroids are helpful to treat acute asthma symptoms, or flare ups however, long-term use of oral steroids is usually avoided in older asthma patients. Over time, oral steroids can cause severe side effects, such as weakening of bones, ulcers, or high blood pressure.

    People with asthma should develop a written asthma management plan with their physician. An asthma management plan outlines specific treatment and lifestyle practices, including what to do when asthma symptoms flare up or become out of control.

    Older asthma patients should be sure to ask their physician about any aspect of their asthma treatment that they do not understand. Keeping the physician informed about how well treatment is working is important. Patients need to tell their physician if they are having trouble remembering to take their medications, or if they are having difficulty using devices such as an inhaler.

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    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:

    • Eggs
    • Salads
    • 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.

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    How Does Asthma Affect Pregnancy

    Asthma affects 4 to 8 out of 100 pregnant women . If you keep your asthma under control, it probably wont cause any problems during your pregnancy.

    If you dont control your asthma, you may be at risk for a serious health problem called preeclampsia. Preeclampsia is a condition that can happen after the 20th week of pregnancy or right after pregnancy. Its when a pregnant woman has high blood pressure and signs that some of her organs, like her kidneys and liver, may not be working properly. Some of these signs include having protein in the urine, changes in vision and severe headache.

    If you dont control your asthma, your baby may not get enough oxygen. He may be at higher risk for health problems like:

    • Premature birth, birth that happens before 37 weeks of pregnancy
    • Poor growth

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    Too Little Sleep Can Mean More Asthma Attacks In Adults

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    May 11, 2020

    First study examining adults with asthma shows negative impacts of sleep deprivation.

    ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. A good nights sleep is crucial to good health. A new article in Annals of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, the scientific journal of the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology reveals that too little sleep, and occasionally too much sleep, can negatively impact adults with asthma.

    Previous research revealed that poor sleep quality has a negative effect on asthma symptoms in adolescents, says Faith Luyster, PhD, lead author of the study. Our study shows that adults with asthma are equally affected by too little sleep. Compared to normal sleepers, short and long sleepers had a higher proportion of people who reported having an asthma attack in the past year and had more days with impaired health-related quality of life. Impaired quality of life was characterized by more days of poor physical and mental health.

    The study surveyed 1,389 adults who were 20 years and older who self-identified as having asthma. Of the group, 25.9 percent slept 5 hours or less, 65.9 percent slept 6-8 hours and 8.2 percent slept 9 or more hours. Sleep duration was measured by a single question, How much sleep do you usually get at night on weekdays or workdays? Short sleepers were more likely to be younger and non-White, while long sleepers were more likely to be older, female and a smoker.

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