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What Are The Signs Of Asthma In Adults

Reducing The Burden Of Asthma

Adult Asthma – Overview (signs and symptoms, pathophysiology, investigations and treatment)

Asthma cannot be cured, but good management with inhaled medications can control the disease and enable people with asthma to enjoy a normal, active life.

There are two main types of inhaler:

  • bronchodilators , that open the air passages and relieve symptoms and
  • steroids , that reduce inflammation in the air passages. This improves asthma symptoms and reduces the risk of severe asthma attacks and death.

People with asthma may need to use their inhaler every day. Their treatment will depend on the frequency of symptoms and the different types of inhalers available.

It can be difficult to coordinate breathing using an inhaler, especially for children and during emergency situations. Using a spacer device makes it easier to use an aerosol inhaler and helps the medicine to reach the lungs more effectively. A spacer is a plastic container with a mouthpiece or mask at one end and a hole for the inhaler in the other. A homemade spacer, made from a 500ml plastic bottle, can be as effective as a commercially manufactured inhaler.

Access to inhalers is a problem in many countries. In 2021, bronchodilators were available in public primary health care facilities in half of low- and low-middle income countries, and steroid inhalers available in one third.

What Causes Adults To Develop Asthma

At least 30% of adult asthma cases are triggered by allergies. People who are allergic to cats may have an increased risk for developing adult onset asthma. Exposure to allergens or irritants such as cigarette smoke, chemicals, mold, dust, or other substances commonly found in the persons environment might trigger the first asthma symptoms in an adult.

Prolonged exposure to certain workplace materials may set off asthma symptoms in adults.

Hormonal fluctuations in women may play a role in adult onset asthma. Some women first develop asthma symptoms during or after a pregnancy. Women going through menopause can develop asthma symptoms for the first time.

Different illnesses, viruses, or infections can be a factor in adult onset asthma. A bad cold or a bout with the flu is often a factor in adult onset asthma.

Smoking does not cause adult onset asthma however, if you smoke or if you are exposed to cigarette smoke , it may provoke asthma symptoms.

Can Asthma Be Prevented

Asthma cant be prevented entirely, but there are some practical ways to reduce the risk of an asthma attack and live well with asthma.

  • Get vaccinated for influenza: flu and other respiratory viruses are common triggers for asthma.
  • Manage any allergies: asthma and allergies are closely linked, so treating allergic rhinitis and avoiding or managing any allergy triggers will help with your asthma.
  • Live smoke-free: quit smoking if you smoke, and avoid any second-hand smoke .
  • Eat well: a balanced diet helps you to maintain a healthy weight. Being overweight or obese makes asthma harder to manage.
  • Care for yourself: mental health and asthma are linked, so let a trusted friend or your doctor know if you have been feeling sad or anxious, or dont enjoy things as much as before.
  • See your doctor regularly: asthma needs to be regularly assessed and managed, and your medication needs may change over time. Ensure your asthma action plan is up to date by checking in with your doctor regularly.

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Asthma Symptoms In Children

Most children with asthma have symptoms before they turn 5. In very young children, it may be hard for parents, and even doctors, to recognize that the symptoms are due to asthma. The bronchial tubes in infants, toddlers and preschoolers are already small and narrow, and head colds, chest colds and other illnesses can iname these airways, making them even smaller and more irritated.

The symptoms of pediatric asthma can range from a nagging cough that lingers for days or weeks to sudden and scary breathing emergencies.

Common symptoms to watch for include:

  • Coughing, especially at night
  • A wheezing or whistling sound when breathing, especially when exhaling
  • Trouble breathing or fast breathing that causes the skin around the ribs or neck to pull in tightly
  • Frequent colds that settle in the chest

Your child might have only one of these symptoms or several of them. You may think its just a cold or bronchitis. If the symptoms recur, thats a clue that your child might have asthma. In addition, symptoms may worsen when your child is around asthma triggers, such as irritants in the air or allergens like pollen, pet dander and dust mites.

How Can You Tell If You Have Asthma

What Is Asthma?

It can be hard to tell if someone has asthma, especially in children under age 5. Having a doctor check how well your lungs work and check for allergies can help you find out if you have asthma.

During a checkup, a doctor will ask if you cough a lot, especially at night. He or she will also ask whether your breathing problems are worse after physical activity or at certain times of year. The doctor will then ask about chest tightness, wheezing, and colds lasting more than 10 days. He or she will ask whether anyone in your family has or has had asthma, allergies, or other breathing problems. Finally, the doctor will ask questions about your home and whether you have missed school or work or have trouble doing certain things.

The doctor may also do a breathing test, called spirometry, to find out how well your lungs are working by testing how much air you can breathe out after taking a very deep breath before and after you use asthma medicine.

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Sign Of Asthma In Adults Types Causes And Treatment

Asthma in adults is a serious condition that affects the air passages of the lungs. Asthma makes breathing difficult because the muscles around the airways tighten and swell. This swelling can make the airways narrower, causing wheezing which is heard when you breathe in or out. Although asthma can occur at any age, its most common in children and teens.

Asthma affects millions of people around the world. In the United States alone, over 25 million adults all over the country suffer from some kind of type of asthma.

While there is no cure for asthma, treatment can help control symptoms so that you can lead a more active life.

In This Article

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Key Points About Asthma In Adults

  • New Zealand has one of the highest rates of asthma in the world, affecting up to 1 in 7 children and 1 in 8 adults.
  • If you have asthma, your airways are sensitive and react to certain triggers such as allergens , viruses, cold or humid weather, exercise and air pollutants such as cigarette smoke.
  • These triggers cause your air passages to tighten up, swell on the inside and produce more mucus.
  • As a result, the airways become narrower, making it difficult for air to move into your lungs, and even more difficult for air to move out.
  • Learning about asthma, what causes it and how it is treated can help you avoid triggers and keep your symptoms under control.
  • Seek urgent medical help if you have severe asthma symptoms.
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    What Are The Symptoms Of Allergic Asthma

    If you have allergic asthma, you may have many of the same symptoms you would experience with other types of asthma. These symptoms can include:

    • Coughing frequently, especially at night.
    • Experiencing chest tightness .

    These symptoms can be very intense during an asthma attack. Make sure you have a treatment plan in place if you have severe asthma symptoms this plan often includes an inhaler .

    You can also experience symptoms more closely related to allergies. These are usually less intense than asthma symptoms and can happen when youre exposed to an allergen. These symptoms can include:

    What Is Asthma In Adults

    Asthma in Adults. Adult-onset Asthma symptoms and Treatment
    • Asthma is a disorder of the lungs, which causes the airways of the lungs to be affected. It occurs as a result of excessive sensitivity of the lung airways, to various stimuli
    • Swelling and narrowing of the airways occur, which results in a variety of symptoms, such as wheezing, difficulty in breathing, persistent cough, and painful chest tightness
    • When Asthma is diagnosed in people older than 20 years, it is called Adult-Onset Asthma

    Asthma may be of various kinds, namely:

    • Mild intermittent Asthma

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    Box 2 Alternative Causes Of Symptoms Suggestive Of Asthma*

    • Other obstructive lung diseases

  • Nonobstructive lung diseases

  • Extrapulmonary diseases

  • Dyspnea can have respiratory, cardiac, hematologic, neuromuscular or psychosomatic causes, but the pattern of symptoms associated with this problem may point to the specific diagnosis . Distinguishing asthma from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease is a common clinical challenge. Asthma is associated with variable symptoms that often worsen after exposure to triggers and with nocturnal symptoms . In contrast, patients with COPD tend to experience a gradual increase in symptoms over time, with exacerbations often being related to infectious precipitants . Also, COPD is characterized by irreversible or only partially reversible airflow obstruction and results from an abnormal inflammatory response to noxious agents. Asthma and COPD can coexist, particularly in people who smoke., Validated symptom-based questionnaires and diagnostic algorithms, designed for use in countries without the capabilities to objectively measure lung function, can be used to differentiate these conditions.

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    Know Why Infections Trigger Asthma Symptoms

    Sometimes a virus or bacterial infection is an asthma trigger. For instance, you might have a cold virus that triggers your asthma symptoms. Or your asthma can be triggered by a bacterial sinus infection. Sinusitis with asthma is common.

    Itâs important to know the signs and symptoms of respiratory tract infections and to call your health care provider immediately for diagnosis and treatment. For instance, you might have symptoms of increased shortness of breath, difficulty breathing, or wheezing with a bronchial infection. In people who donât have asthma, the bronchial infection may not trigger the same debilitating symptoms. Know your body and understand warning signs that an infection might be starting. Then take the proper medications as prescribed to eliminate the infection and regain control of your asthma and health.

    For more detail, see WebMDâs article Infections and Asthma.

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    When To See A Gp

    See a GP if you think you or your child may have asthma.

    Several conditions can cause similar symptoms, so it’s important to get a proper diagnosis and correct treatment.

    The GP will usually be able to diagnose asthma by asking about symptoms and carrying out some simple tests.

    Find out more about how asthma is diagnosed.

    Symptoms Of Adult Asthma

    Asthma Signs And Symptoms In Adults

    Symptoms of adult-onset asthma are very similar to that of childhood asthma. They can include any or all of the following:

    • Pressure or tightness in the chest
    • Shortness of breath
    • Colds that have a duration past 10 days
    • Difficulty breathing
    • Trouble sleeping due to inconsistent breathing, which can lead to fatigue

    To determine if you have adult asthma, your healthcare provider will inquire about your medical history and may perform a lung function test, to see how fast you can empty air from your lungs. They may also perform a methacholine challenge test, which will cause your airways to narrow and spasm if you indeed have asthma. These tests allow your healthcare provider to make an official diagnosis.

    If you are diagnosed with asthma, you may be classified in one of four categories, based on the frequency and severity of your symptoms: mild intermittent, mild persistent, moderate persistent and severe persistent. This classification can help determine the best course of treatment.

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    Treatment Of Asthma During Pregnancy

    Guidelines from the National Asthma Education and Prevention Program emphasize that most asthma medications are safe for pregnant women. The guidelines recommend that pregnant women with asthma have albuterol available at all times. Inhaled corticosteroids should be used for persistent asthma. Patients whose persistent asthma does not respond to standard dosages of inhaled corticosteroids may need a higher dosage or the addition of a long-acting beta-agonist to their drug regimen.

    For severe asthma, oral corticosteroids may be necessary. The NAEPP notes that while it is not clear if oral corticosteroids are safe for pregnant women, uncontrolled asthma poses an even greater risk for a woman and her fetus. Pregnant women with asthma face increased risks for complications including pre-eclampsia and preterm delivery.

    What Is Allergic Asthma

    For many people, allergies play a large part in their life. Allergies can affect what you eat, products you use, and even the way you breathe. When allergies combine with a breathing condition called asthma, its called allergic asthma. A type of asthma, allergic asthma is a condition where your airways tighten when you breathe in an allergen. This can be something in the air often pollen, dander or mold spores. Allergens are also called triggers because they set off your asthma. Things that could cause you to have a reaction, might not affect other people.

    When you have allergies your body creates a response to something it thinks is a threat the allergen. It fires up all of its defenses to try and fight off danger. This is done by your immune system. Your immune system typically works to protect you from disease. When your immune system thinks that theres danger, it releases a chemical called immunoglobulin E . This substance is meant to fight back and protect your body. However, high amounts of IgE can cause your airways to tighten, making it difficult to breathe.

    Asthma is a disease of the lungs that causes your airways to:

    • Become swollen or irritated specifically in the airway linings.
    • Produce large amounts of mucus that is thicker than normal.
    • Narrow because the muscles around the airways tighten.

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    What Other Tools Can I Use For Monitoring Asthma Control

    Peak Flow Meter

    Sometimes doctors recommend a peak flow meter a handheld device that measures how well air moves out of your lungs. A peak flow meter, when used every day, can spot reduced airflow before you notice the signs and symptoms of an asthma episode.

    Peak flow meter readings can help you monitor your asthma control. But they are just one tool. Your peak flow meter reading is not the only indicator of asthma control. Always follow your Asthma Action Plan.

    Pulse Oximeter

    Doctors use pulse oximeters to measure how much oxygen your blood is carrying. Some people with asthma may experience a drop in their oxygen levels in their blood.

    Pulse oximeters you can buy online and use at home are not as accurate as medical grade devices. Monitoring your blood oxygen levels with pulse oximeters is not a recommended part of home management of asthma.

    Lung Function Tests

    Your allergist or pulmonologist may use different lung function tests to assess your asthma control. Learn more about the tests used to diagnose and monitor asthma.

    Asthma Medication Is Important

    Warning Signs of Adult Onset Asthma

    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 â 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.
    • relieversâ that act quickly to relieve symptoms by relaxing the tight muscles around the airways. This medication is used during an asthma attack

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    How Is Asthma Treated

    Asthma can be controlled, but there’s no asthma cure. There are, however, certain goals in asthma treatment. If you are unable to achieve all of these goals, it means your asthma is not under control. You should contact your asthma care provider for help with asthma.

    Treatment goals include the following:

    • Live an active, normal life
    • Prevent chronic and troublesome symptoms
    • Attend work or school every day
    • Perform daily activities without difficulty
    • Stop urgent visits to the doctor, emergency room, or hospital
    • Use and adjust medications to control asthma with little or no side effects

    Properly using asthma medication, as prescribed by your doctor, is the basis of good asthma control, in addition to avoiding triggers and monitoring daily asthma symptoms. There are two main types of asthma medications:

    Asthma medications can be taken by inhaling the medications or by swallowing oral medications . If you are also taking drugs for other conditions, you should work with your providers to check drug interactions and simplify medications when possible.

    What Are Signs And Symptoms Of Adult Onset Asthma

    Regardless of age, asthma symptoms can include:

    Dry cough, especially at night or in response to specific triggers

    Tightness or pressure in the chest

    Wheezing a whistling sound when exhaling

    Shortness of breath after exercise or physical exertion

    Difficulty breathing

    Colds that go to the chest or hang on for 10 days or more

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    Treating Seasonal Allergies And Sinusitis

    Patients with asthma and chronic allergic rhinitis may need to take medications daily. Patients with severe seasonal allergies may need to start medications a few weeks before the pollen season, and to continue medicine until the season is over. Treatment of allergies and sinusitis can help control asthma.

    Immunotherapy may help reduce asthma symptoms, and the use of asthma medications, in patients with known allergies. They may also help prevent the development of asthma in children with allergies. Immunotherapy poses some risk for severe allergic reactions, however, especially for children with poorly controlled asthma.

    An oral form of immunotherapy that uses a sublingual tablet has been researched. Recent reviews indicate that sublingual therapy may be helpful for milder asthma. However, this therapy has not been shown to improve more persistent asthma, and safety has not been well studied in patients with more severe asthma. Furthermore, many questions remain including dosage and duration of treatment. Sublingual therapy has recently been FDA-approved for allergic rhinitis caused by grass and ragweed allergies. At this time, sublingual immunotherapy is not approved or recommended for asthma treatment in the United States.

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