Environmental Factors And Asthma
Indoor air pollution such as cigarette smoke, mold, and noxious fumes from household cleaners and paints can cause allergic reactions and asthma. Environmental factors such as pollution, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxide, ozone, cold temperatures, and high humidity are all known to trigger asthma in susceptible individuals. In fact, asthma symptoms and hospital admissions are greatly increased during periods of heavy air pollution. Ozone is the major destructive ingredient in smog. It causes coughing, shortness of breath, and even chest pain — and can boost the susceptibility to infection. Sulfur dioxide, another component of smog, also irritates the airways and constricts the air passages, resulting in asthma attacks.
Gas stoves are the primary source of indoor nitrogen dioxide, a common indoor pollutant. Studies show that people who cook with gas are more likely to have wheezing, breathlessness, asthma attacks, and hay fever than those who cook with other methods. It is estimated that more than half of the households in the U.S. use gas stoves.
Weather changes can also result in asthma attacks in some people. For instance, cold air causes airway congestion and an increase in mucus production. Increases in humidity may also cause breathing difficulty in a certain population.
What Are The Three Types Of Asthma
The three common types of asthma are as follows:
Other types of asthma include the following:
- Occupational asthma: This is common in carpenters, hairdressers, animal breeders, and farmers who are exposed to allergens at their workplace. Medication and counseling may be needed.
- Cough variant asthma: Severe coughing is the main feature of this asthma rather than wheezes. It may be triggered by infections or exercises.
So What Are The Symptoms You Should Watch Out For
Which signs of asthma you might experience differs from person to person and some are more common than others, Raymond Casciari, M.D., a pulmonologist at St. Joseph Hospital in Orange, California, tells SELF. Its possible that youll have such a mild reaction to one of your personal asthma triggers that you dont take much note of it. But if the effects get worse, they can turn into an asthma attack, which is a potentially life-threatening exacerbation of asthma symptoms. Thats why its so important to know the common signs of asthma, including the more subtle ones.
These are classic asthma signs you should know:
Shortness of breath: This is an obvious complication that happens when you cant get enough oxygen due to the way your airways and their surrounding muscles are reacting to asthma triggers, Sadia Benzaquen, M.D., a pulmonologist and associate professor in the department of internal medicine at the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine, tells SELF.
Cough: When an irritant gets into your throat or airways, it stimulates nerves that prompt your brain to make the muscles in your chest and abdomen expel air from your lungs with a cough, according to the Mayo Clinic. Since a sensitivity to irritants can cause asthma symptoms, coughing is a hallmark sign of this condition, says Dr. Benzaquen. In fact, its the most common sign of asthma Dr. Parikh has seen people ignore.
Some people may have these less common signs of asthma:
What Kind Of Physician Treats Adult Onset Asthma
Many older patients are treated for asthma by their internist or family physician; however, if your asthma symptoms are not under control within three to six months, or if you have severe persistent asthma, or if you are having asthma episodes that need emergency treatment, it may be time to see an asthma specialist. Allergists/Immunologists or pulmonologists are specialists who treat asthma. Those who have completed training in those specialties are usually called board-certified or board-eligible.
Asthma Symptoms Can Mimic Other Illnesses Or Diseases Especially In Older Adults For Example:
- Hiatal hernia, stomach problems, heart failure, or rheumatic arthritis can create asthma-like symptoms.
- Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease has many of the same symptoms as asthma. COPD, which includes emphysema and chronic bronchitis, is very common in older adults especially those who are or have been smokers.
When To See The Doctor
A good rule of thumb is you should visit your doctor if you have asthma and you wake up in the night more than once per week after using treatments. Your doctor can evaluate what may be causing your symptoms and help modify your treatment plan. Checking your breath in a peak flow meter at night may also be helpful.
If you are not diagnosed with asthma but have asthma-like symptoms at night, you should report the episodes to your doctor. While you may not have asthma, your doctor can point you in the right direction for treatment.
How Do Healthcare Providers Diagnose Asthma
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.
What Is The Outlook
Bronchitis is a temporary condition that should resolve itself with at-home care. There are, however, some who are more likely to have complications. These include the elderly, young children, and those who are immunocompromised, such as people with cancer or diabetes.
Taking medications and avoiding asthma triggers can help people avoid more acute asthma attacks if they have the condition.
People should not refrain from physical activity, even though exercise can trigger asthma attacks in some. A doctor may, instead, suggest they carry a rescue or short-acting inhaler to prevent more acute attacks.
A doctor may also recommend that the individual uses a short-acting inhaler 30 minutes before they begin to exercise.
What Should I Do If I Am Wheezing
Wheeze is a very common symptom that can occur with a wide range of lung and airways disorders at any age. The severity of the diseases causing wheeze can vary. Typically, other lung or respiratory related symptoms tend to occur at the same time as wheeze. In particular, a cough is common but other more serious symptoms may be present such as breathing difficulty.
Take These Before Hitting The Gym
- Short acting beta agonist or bronchodilator: Using this inhaler 10 to 15 minutes before exercise can prevent symptoms. It can also be used to treat symptoms after they occur.
- Long-acting bronchodilator: Inhaled 30 to 60 minutes before exercise, it prevents symptoms for 10 to 12 hours but offers no rescue benefit once symptoms occur.
- Mast cell stabilizers: Taken 15 to 20 minutes before exercise to prevent EIB.
When To See A Specialist About Your Asthma
Asthma is not always easy to diagnose, Fineman says, but you should see your doctor if youre having repeated episodes of wheezing and coughing or shortness of breath. If you’re diagnosed with the condition, work with your doctor to develop an asthma management and action plan.
Although your primary care doctor may be able to diagnose and treat your asthma, if your symptoms dont respond to a first-line therapy of inhaled corticosteroids and short-acting bronchodilators, Asciuto recommends that you see a lung specialist or allergy and asthma specialist.
Safety First A Checklist Of Warning Signs Of More Serious Breathing Problems
Its nice that some people may be able to find an easy solution to their shortness of breath, or at least be reassured that its mostly harmless. Unfortunately, more ominous causes of dyspnea are also common, so please always alert your doctor about any difficult breathing. If your doctor cannot find any explanation, and you have none of these red flags, then you can pursue the possibility of muscle knots and weak breathing muscles. Safety first! And second.
- Have you developed other unusual and/or persistent symptoms?
- Do you have a chronic wheeze or cough?
- Are you tired all the time? Do you look pale? These two together are a red flag.
- Do you have a dry, painful cough and your shortness of breath gets worse when you exercise?
- Are your feet and ankles swollen, and is it harder to breathe when you lie down flat?
- Have you worked in or around asbestos, wood dust, industrial fumes or in a coal mine? If so, you probably already understand why youre having trouble!
Any of these factors could be associated with a slow, sneaky onset of a serious condition.
What Is Asthma Anyway
First up, a little anatomy refresher: Your airways, which extend between your nose and mouth and your lungs, have the very important job of carrying air in and out of your body, according to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute . When you have asthma, triggers like animal fur, pollen, mold, cold air, cigarette smoke, exercise, and respiratory infections like colds cause your airways to get inflamed, according to the NHLBI. That inflammation can cause swelling, which in turn can prompt the muscles around your airways to tighten, making it hard to get air in and out. At the same time, your airways might also expel more mucus than they usually do, making it even harder to breathe.
Experts dont know exactly what causes some people to get asthma when others dont, but its pretty safe to assume that its probably a combination of environmental factors and genetic factors. For example, if someone in your immediate family has asthma, youre more likely to have it too, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention . Beyond that, the general cause is a stronger-than-normal response from your immune system to certain triggers, which is why you get all that inflammation when people without asthma dont, says the NHLBI.
After An Asthma Attack
You should see a GP or asthma nurse within 48 hours of leaving hospital, or ideally on the same day if you did not need hospital treatment.
About 1 in 6 people treated in hospital for an asthma attack need hospital care again within 2 weeks, so it’s important to discuss how you can reduce your risk of future attacks.
Talk to a doctor or nurse about any changes that may need to be made to manage your condition safely.
For example, the dose of your treatment may need to be adjusted or you may need to be shown how to use your inhaler correctly.
Can Asthma Reappear In Adults After Disappearing Years Ago
Asthma is usually diagnosed in childhood. In many patients; however, the symptoms will disappear or are significantly reduced after puberty. After age 20, symptoms may begin to reappear.
Researchers have tracked this tendency for reappearing asthma and found that people with childhood asthma tend to experience reappearing symptoms through their 30s and 40s at various levels of severity.
Regardless of whether your asthma is active, you should continue to avoid your known triggers and keep your rescue medications or prescriptions up-to-date and handy in case you need them.
Part I: Trigger Pointsthe Effects Of Muscle Knots On Breathing
Trigger points better known as muscle knots can cause shortness of breath. They are small patches of sensitive muscle tissue, maybe caused by a micro cramp, or possibly neurological hypersensitivity. Trigger points are a big, tricky topic.
Trigger points may form in the muscles we use to breathe, making it difficult or even painful to move the ribs and expand the chest. Even the diaphragm itself might develop trigger points that make it feel weak and tired, and limit its range of contraction.
Quick muscle knot orientation: So-called muscle knots AKA trigger points are small unexplained sore spots in muscle tissue associated with stiffness and soreness. No one doubts that they are there, but they are unexplained and controversial. They can be surprisingly intense, cause pain in confusing patterns, and they grow like weeds around other painful problems and injuries, but most healthcare professionals know little about them, so misdiagnosis is epidemic. For more information about how trigger points might be involved in your own medical history, see PainScience.coms popular e-book: The Complete Guide to Trigger Points & Myofascial Pain: An extremely detailed guide to the unfinished science of muscle pain, with reviews of every theory and treatment option.
Trigger points in the muscles of the throat, neck, chest, and back may also interfere with the nervous systems control of respiration.
Can You Have Asthma And Bronchitis At The Same Time
People with asthma can also have acute bronchitis. They may notice their asthma symptoms become worse as a consequence. They may experience:
- shortness of breath
- pain and discomfort when breathing
Sometimes, people with severe bronchitis and asthma may have to go to the hospital because mucus has clogged the airways into their lungs so much.
What Are Typical Asthma Symptoms
Asthma was traditionally considered a homogeneous disease. By this definition, all asthmatics would present the same and with typical asthma symptoms.
Typical symptoms of asthma are:
- Shortness of breath
These are the symptoms most doctors have been trained to look for in their asthmatics. These are the symptoms nurses and respiratory therapists are trained to look for in asthmatics. But, as researchers continue learning about our disease, they are learning that not all asthma is the same.
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.
Asthma Rates On The Rise
The number of people with asthma has been going up steadily in the U.S. for decades. Some researchers suggest it’s because of better hygiene: The theory is that fewer childhood infections lead to under-developed immune systems, which means a greater risk of asthma. It might also be because we use more household cleaning sprays, we have more axposure to air pollution, or we are being exposed to more toxicants in ther environment.Â
Other Tests For Conditions That May Mimic Asthma
There are some medical conditions that often make asthma harder to treat and control, in addition to being asthma mimics. These include allergies and GERD. If you are diagnosed with asthma, your doctor might also test you for these conditions, or treat them for several weeks to see if your asthma symptoms also improve.
For more information on allergies, GERD, and other triggers, see Causes of Asthma.
The Quality Of The Sensation And What It Might Mean
Many things contribute to a sensation of shortness of breath, 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.
Q: Can A Child Have Asthma Without Wheezing My Child Coughs A Lot When He’s Running Around Playing Sports
A: Good question! It is possible for a child to have asthma even if he doesn’t wheeze consistently. Sometimes asthma can take the form of a hacking cough whenever a kid exerts himself too hard. Other symptoms may include chest tightness and shortness of breath.
Talk to your pediatrician about your son’s symptoms. She’ll probably have some questions about his medical history, since certain factors — like family history or having seasonal allergies — make kids more prone to the condition. The doctor may also want to perform a painless test on your son to check for any airway narrowing . During the test, your child will breathe into a machine called a spirometer, or a device called a peak flow reader to determine how well he’s breathing.
If your child is diagnosed with asthma, your doctor may not put him on a daily medication right away until she has a better idea of how often the coughing episodes happen. She may suggest you carry a rescue inhaler in your purse for when sudden symptoms crop up. If your son attends school or daycare, you should also give an inhaler to his teacher or school nurse in case he has an episode there.
What Causes Wheezing
Wheezing is a sign of bronchoconstriction, a narrowing of the airways of the lungs that impedes the flow of air to and from the lungs, creating a whistling noise during breathing. Again, it’s most common when you breathe out, but can also occur when you breathe in, which may indicate especially advanced asthma.
Bronchoconstriction that occurs in asthma is the result of an inflammatory response to a trigger such as pollen, smoke, or an infection. Triggers differ among people with asthma but in all cases they cause inflammation and tightening of the airways.
In addition to wheezing, which is often the first sign of asthma or an impending asthma attack, there are other classic symptoms of asthma:
- Chronic cough
- Chest tightness
Who Can Get Asthma
Anyone can develop asthma at any age. People with allergies or people exposed to tobacco smoke and secondhand smoke are more likely to develop asthma.
Statistics show women tend to have asthma more than men, and asthma affects Black Americans more frequently than other races.
When a child develops asthma, healthcare providers call it childhood asthma. If it develops later in life, its adult-onset asthma.
Children do not outgrow asthma. They may have fewer symptoms as they get older, but they could still have an asthma attack. Your childs healthcare provider can help you understand the risks.
And Heres What You Can Expect With Treatment Which Is Generally Either Long
One of the most important ways to treat asthma is to avoid being exposed to your triggers, Dr. Wilgus says. Of course, that can feel impossible if your trigger is something thats seemingly everywhere, like dust or pollen. Though you can definitely take steps to reduce your exposure to those, avoiding them entirely is tough. Luckily, there are medications that can help when youve done everything you can trigger-wise.
Asthma medications generally fall into two categories: long-term preventive medications and fast-acting drugs that can help when youre having an asthma attack or on your way to one. Long-term preventive medications like allergy medications and inhaled anti-inflammatory corticosteroids are designed to help control your asthma so youre less likely to have an asthma attack in the first place, the Mayo Clinic says. Quick-relief medications , like short-acting beta agonists that you use via an inhaler, can help relax your airways when theyre acting up enough that your asthma is noticeably worse.
Whatever you do, dont resign yourself to living with asthma symptoms like trouble breathing and coughing all the time. Asthma is a very controllable illness as long as the signs and symptoms are not ignored, Dr. Parikh says.
Can Asthma Be Cured
There is still much research that needs to be done to fully understand how to prevent, treat and cure asthma. Asthma Canadas National Research Program is committed to supporting leading asthma researchers and graduate student researchers working to expand our knowledge and one day, unlock a cure.
Side Effects Of Exercise
Episodes of EIB can cause temporary inflammation and damage to lungs, but its reversible with proper treatment. The biggest complication associated with exercise-induced breathing difficulty is GIVING UP ON EXERCISE!
Some people with EIB feel anxiety, fear, and embarrassment about exercising. Rightfully so! Whats not scary about feeling like you cant breathe?
The truth is avoiding exercise is counterproductive. Its totally possible to have an active life while managing EIB. In fact, exercise improves quality of life.
What Is The Most Important Thing To Know If You Have Asthma During Coronavirus
The most important thing an asthmatic individual should do at this time is make sure their asthma is well controlled and that they follow coronavirus precautions to prevent getting infected. Having your asthma controlled well helps keep your lung function at a higher level allowing you a better chance of getting through coronavirus in your lungs.
Coronavirus decreases the functioning of your lungs. For example, a well-controlled asthmatic with 90% of lung function will have an easier time of handling a coronavirus infection in the lungs that decrease lung function to 60%. Compare this to a poorly-controlled asthmatic who starts at 70% of lung function and drops to 40% with a coronavirus pneumonia. Starting at a higher lung function by well-controlling and treating your asthma, will help you better fight a coronavirus infection.
Seeing your health care provider at this time is critical for you to improve your chances to beat coronavirus.
Indirect Consequences Of Stress And Anxiety
The way we breathe is a powerful aspect of self-expression. Anxiety, emotional constipation, and other habits of mind and dysfunctional and self-limiting behavioural patterns might be associated with strong breathing patterns, especially shallow breathing.
Shallow breath is what we do when we literally hide . It is also what we do when we feel like we want to hide! Deep breathing is one of the main practical suggestions for fighting anxiety. Its a feedback loop.
Habitually breathing shallowly can be so subtle for so long that we dont even realize theres a problem until all the contributing factors and bad habits and vicious cycles are too deeply entrenched to break free a classic boiling frog kind of problem.
All of this is a rather complicated mess to try to sort out, but Im not going to leave you hanging. Here are several relevant, practical self-help articles. They all focus on what you can do about these issues:
Asthma Signs & Symptoms
People with asthma experience symptoms due to inflammation in the airways. They might only occur when you encounter an asthma trigger. Common symptoms that can lead to a diagnosis of asthma include:
- Persistent or recurring coughing: which often occurs at night or early in the morning, although it can happen at any time. Coughing is a major feature of asthma, especially in children and can sometimes be the only sign of asthma.
- Wheezing: is difficulty breathing accompanied by a whistling sound coming from your airways
- Shortness of breath: gives you the feeling that you cant get enough air into your lungs, and may even find it difficult to eat, sleep or speak
- Chest tightness: an unpleasant sensation of heaviness or pressure in the chest that can make it hard to breathe
- Increased mucus production: is characterized by high levels of thick fluid or phlegm accumulating in your airways
- Difficulty breathing while exercising: having trouble breathing while performing physical activities can be a sign of asthma
- Losing Sleep: Being unable to sleep through the night because of breathing troubles
How Is Nocturnal Asthma Treated
In addition, using your peak flow meter, you can monitor how your lung function is altered throughout the day and night. Once you notice this altered pattern of lung function, talk with your doctor about a plan to resolve your nighttime asthma symptoms. According to your type of asthma and asthma severity , your doctor can prescribe treatment to help you resolve your nighttime asthma symptoms so you can sleep like a baby.