What To Do For An Asthma Attack When An Inhaler Is Not Available
Severe asthma attacks can be terrifying. What if you dont have access to a quick-relief inhaler? While having a quick-relief inhaler for an acute asthma attack is normally the first approach, when you dont have your inhaler, there are things you can do.
While you are waiting for help, you may have a family member bring you a cup of hot coffee. While coffee does not treat asthma attacks, it does have mild bronchodilator properties and may provide some temporary relief.
What To Expect When You Visit The Doctor
Your doctor may ask whether you have any family history of asthma, eczema or hay fever.
In children, doctors assess the severity of the asthma based on the pattern and frequency of the symptoms.
Lung function tests are difficult to perform in children younger than 5 years and so are usually only used to diagnose and assess severity in children 5 years and older.
It is recommended that a paediatrician or paediatric respiratory specialist diagnose and manage asthma in infants under 12 months. If your infant is wheezing your doctor should refer to you one of these specialists.
Spacers And Asthma Medication
For all people with asthma, it is recommended that a spacer device is used when asthma medication is delivered via a puffer . A spacer is a specially designed container that attaches to a puffer and has its own mouthpiece to breathe through.
Using a spacer helps the medication to go where it is supposed to into the small airways in the lungs rather than ending up coating your childs mouth, tongue and throat. It is much more effective than using a puffer on its own. Using a spacer with a puffer can reduce or prevent side effects from inhaled medication.
Babies and young children may need a spacer with a special face mask attached to inhale asthma medicines effectively. These fit tightly around your childs mouth and nose to make sure none of the medicine leaks out. Talk to your pharmacist for advice and to have your technique checked.
Watch this Asthma Australia video which shows you how to use a spacer with a face mask.
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Stress Is Harder On Your Body Than Others It Seems
If you find it difficult to breathe when you become emotional or stressed, you could have asthma. High level emotions and stress can trigger asthma symptoms. If your shortness of breath doesnt improve, The Asthma Society of Canada suggests seeking medical attention or discuss with your healthcare provider to find the root cause of your symptoms.
What Are Common Asthma Attack Triggers
You can have an asthma attack if you come in contact with substances that irritate you. Healthcare providers call these substances triggers. Knowing what triggers your asthma makes it easier to avoid asthma attacks.
For some people, a trigger can bring on an attack right away. For other people, or at other times, an attack may start hours or days later.
Triggers can be different for each person. But some common triggers include:
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You Have Trouble Sleeping Because You Cant Breathe Well
Sure, there are plenty of reasons why you may have difficulty sleeping, but asthma makes it happen in a pretty scary way: Asthma will cause people to wake suddenly from sleep due to shortness of breath, cough, or wheezing, Dr. Kleva says. With that said, you could also blame that on something like anxiety rather than asthma.
Experts arent totally sure why asthma can flare up at night, but it may be tied to hormonal changes, Emily Pennington, M.D., a pulmonologist at the Cleveland Clinic, tells SELF. At night, your body can release higher levels of the stress hormone cortisol. Though its not set in stone, experts think this may promote more bodily inflammation, including in your airways, Dr. Pennington says. That can then lead to sudden coughing fits and shortness of breath, which can wake you up.
What Is Severe Asthma
Severe asthma is often harder to control than mild to moderate asthma. It may require higher dosages and more frequent use of asthma medications. If youre not managing it properly, severe asthma can be dangerous and even life threatening in some cases.
Its important that youre able to recognize when your condition isnt properly managed. Doing so can help you take steps to find a more effective method of treatment.
Here are eight signs that your severe asthma is getting worse and what to do next.
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Breathing Problems During Exercise
If you have chest tightness, cough, wheeze or shortness of breath during exercise, your doctor may perform extra tests to see if you have a type of asthma called, exercise-induced asthma or exercise-induced bronchospasm. For some people, they will only have asthma symptoms during exercise. There are many benefits to exercise, so work with your doctor to find the best management steps and treatment options for you.
Who Can Get Asthma
Statistics show that people assigned female at birth tend to have asthma more than people assigned male at birth. Asthma affects Black people more frequently than other races.
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How Can I Be Better Prepared To Manage Asthma What Is An Asthma Management Plan
Unfortunately, asthma cannot be cured. This makes it crucial to have your doctor create an asthma action plan to help you stay in control of your asthma.
Your asthma action plan will outline:
- What medication do I need?
- How can I tell if your asthma is getting worse?
- What should I do if my symptoms get worse?
- What can I have an asthma attack?
If your doctor develops an asthma action plan for you, its important to follow your asthma action plan closely. Make sure you carry and take your medications, such as an asthma inhaler.
What Does Asthma Feel Like
Asthma is characterized by inflammation of the bronchial tubes with increased production of sticky secretions inside the tubes. People with asthma experience symptoms when the airways tighten, inflame, or fill with mucus. Common asthma symptoms include:
- Coughing, especially at night
- Shortness of breath
- Chest tightness, pain, or pressure
Still, not every person with asthma has the same symptoms in the same way. You may not have all of these symptoms, or you may have different symptoms at different times. Your asthma symptoms may also vary from one asthma attack to the next, being mild during one and severe during another.
Some people with asthma may go for extended periods without having any symptoms, interrupted by periodic worsening of their symptoms called asthma attacks. Others might have asthma symptoms every day. In addition, some people may only have asthma during exercise, or asthma with viral infections like colds.
Mild asthma attacks are generally more common. Usually, the airways open up within a few minutes to a few hours. Severe attacks are less common but last longer and require immediate medical help. It is important to recognize and treat even mild asthma symptoms to help you prevent severe episodes and keep asthma under better control.
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What Happens If An Asthma Attack Goes Untreated
Remember, asthma attacks are caused by airway swelling and inflammation. The point of treating an acute asthma attack is to stop that process of swelling and inflammation in its tracks. Without treatment, the airways may become increasingly swollen and inflamed making it increasingly difficult to breathe. As this happens, you may even stop wheezing as there is not enough air movement to produce wheezing. This is known as a silent chest, and it is an ominous sign requiring immediate emergency care. In addition, you may develop:
- blue fingernails or lips
- have difficulty talking except in short phrases
- your chest, ribs and/or collarbone may be sticking out
All these are signs that you need medical care right away.
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.
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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When You See A Doctor To Determine If You Have Asthma Theyll Want To Run Various Tests
Your doctor will probably give you a physical exam first to examine the general state of your health. After that, theyll likely put you through some lung function tests, like a spirometry, which checks how much air you can exhale after taking a deep breath along with how fast you can expel air, according to the Mayo Clinic. Or they may do a peak flow test, which measures how hard you can breathe out. If you cant exhale enough air or breathe out quickly, it may be a sign your lungs arent working well, which could point to asthma, Dr. Benzaquen says.
There are other exams they can use, too, like exposing you to methacholine, a known asthma trigger, to see if your airways narrow, or allergy testing, since allergies and asthma are so often connected.
If you are diagnosed with asthma, itll be with one of four categories, according to the Mayo Clinic. Mild intermittent asthma means you have minimal asthma symptoms for up to two days a week and up to two nights a month, while mild persistent asthma means youre experiencing symptoms more frequently than twice a week, but not more than once on any given day. Moderate persistent asthma ups the ante youll be dealing with symptoms once a day and more than one night a week. Finally, severe persistent asthma involves constant symptoms most days and frequently at night, too.
Uncovering Signs Of Asthma In Adults
- Irritating, persistent cough, particularly at night
- Coughing or wheezing after physical activity
- Coughing, wheezing or chest tightness after allergen exposure
- Wheezing sounds during normal breathing
- Breathing problems related to a specific seasonA cold lasting more than 10 days
- Experiencing symptom relief when a quick relief medication, such as Albuterol, is used
Asthma symptoms can sometimes be confused with allergy symptoms, according to Thome. So, what is the difference between asthma and allergies? Allergies happen when the body has a hypersensitive reaction to a foreign substance, and symptoms can include a stuffy, runny or itchy nose or itchy throat symptoms that are different from asthma, Thome said.
However, when a person with asthma comes into contact with things they are allergic to, it can affect their breathing more than it would someone who doesnt have asthmaeven causing an asthma attack. If an asthmatic comes into contact with certain allergens they are sensitive to, like dust mites, furry animals, mold or pollen, it can trigger an asthma attack, Thome said.
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Youre Absolutely Sure Your Colds Are Way Worse Than The Ones Your Friends Get
Colds are viral respiratory infections, and they suck all around. But they can be especially hard for people with asthma, even those who dont know they have it. Infections can add to the airway inflammation and irritation people with asthma already experience, Dr. Kleva says. This is why physicians strongly urge all asthma patients to get their flu shot, she says.
If you find that you tend to get obliterated when you have a cold while your friends seem to coast through with some meds and extra tissues, its worth flagging for your doctor.
Vaping And Lung Damage
- Talk with your teen about the dangers of vaping.
- Vaping can cause severe lung damage. It can become permanent.
- Vaping can even cause death .
- Vaping tobacco also causes nicotine addiction.
- For these reasons, the legal age to purchase vaping products is 21 in the US.
- Encourage your teen to not start vaping or to give it up.
- Warning: home-made or street-purchased vaping solutions are the most dangerous.
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Learning To Treat Asthma
Asthma is treatable. The goal of asthma management is to have the least number of symptoms, and a good quality of life with proper control of the environment, avoiding irritants, both edible as well as inhaled and the correct use of proper medications that cause the least amount of side effects, Dr. Mavunda says.
An albuterol inhaler is the first step in treating asthma. However, this may not be enough for more severe asthma. If you need albuterol more than twice a week, you most likely need asthma medications, such as:
The Basics Of Diagnosing Asthma
Your doctor will probably start your examination by delving into your past medical history and asking whether any of your relatives have allergies or asthma. You’ll also be asked to describe your symptoms, their severity, and what, if anything, is triggering them.
Triggers could include cold air, dust, hairsprays, perfumes, household cleaner vapors, cigarette or cigar smoke, and air pollution, Asciuto says.
Doctors also try to narrow down the list of culprits by asking these additional questions:
- Is your cough worse at night?
- Do you have more symptoms when youre at home or at work?
- Do you have other health problems that could be causing these symptoms, such as a sinus infection or acid reflux?
Next, your doctor will listen to your breathing with a stethoscope and may order one or more of these diagnostic tests:
Its also important to note that you can have asthma without experiencing any of the hallmark symptoms. There’s no single patient profile for asthma, says Dr. Fineman. “Some will have more coughing, some more wheezing, and some have more problems breathing with exercise, he says.
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You Have A Cough That Never Really Goes Away
Heres a pretty cool fact: 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, 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. In fact, its the most common sign of asthma Dr. Parikh has seen people ignore.
After all, coughing is a normal process that doesnt necessarily mean anything about your healthand even when it does, there are various potential culprits. It makes sense that your mind wouldnt necessarily jump straight to asthma. But its possible to have a cough be your only sign of this, Anastasiya Kleva, M.D., a board-certified allergist at ENT and Allergy Associates NY, tells SELF. If you suddenly take pause and realize youve been coughing for several weeks, you need to see a doctor to figure out whats going on.
You Often Feel Short Of Breath
Another sign that your asthma is getting worse is if you start to feel out of breath even when youre not doing anything strenuous.
Its normal to feel winded after exercising or climbing more stairs than youre used to. But stationary activities like standing, sitting, or lying down shouldnt cause you to lose your breath.
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And Heres What You Can Expect With Treatment Which Is Generally Either Long
Your doctor will determine your treatment plan based on the severity of your asthma, what triggers your asthma, and your lifestyle.
Long-term preventive medications, like allergy medications and anti-inflammatory corticosteroids you can inhale, are meant to control your asthma so youre not as likely to have an asthma attack, according to the Mayo Clinic. Quick-relief treatments can help relax your airways during asthma attacks . Short-acting beta agonists, which you breathe in through an inhaler to relax your airways, are a classic example of this form of treatment.
After youve discussed treatment, you and your doctor need to nail down an asthma action plan, which is basically a written summary of your medication regimen and how to avoid your known triggers through lifestyle changes like having your pets groomed more regularly, according to the Mayo Clinic. This will help you prevent asthma flares and also track your symptoms over time to see whether your medications need any adjusting.
Asthma is different for everyone, but if you have it, youll want to treat it. Doing so could change your life for the better. If your asthma is under control, you shouldnt have any symptoms, Dr. Benzaquen says.
What You Can Do Right Now: Indoor Air Quality
If you suffer from any of the above symptoms, you may want to consider taking a closer look at the air you breathe. Its possible that something in your home may be a trigger for some of your symptoms. While you would need to discuss these potential triggers with your doctor, improving your indoor air quality is one of the most important things you can do for your health. This is especially true if somebody in your home is smoker.
Whether you buy a bunch of houseplants to help purify your air, or buy an air purifier designed with asthma sufferers in mind, there are many things you can do right now to improve your indoor air quality. It may not have a direct effect on your asthma symptoms, but its always good to breathe in more of the pure oxygen your body craves and less of the potentially-harmful pollutants that sometimes come along with it.
Asthma is a complex disease to diagnose, and only a healthcare professional is able to make a proper diagnosis.
If you are concerned that you may have asthma, contact your healthcare provider. In order to confirm an asthma diagnosis, your healthcare provider will take into account your medical and family history, allergies, and conduct lung function testing such as spirometry.
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