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.
Will My Wheezing Or Coughing Be Worse
Not necessarily. You might be surprised to learn that you may not have more of these than usual during a severe asthma attack. So donât judge how bad your asthma attack is based on how much you wheeze or cough.
How Do You Know You Are Having An Asthma Attack
The most important question to discuss when youve received an asthma diagnosis would be, What can I specifically do to keep my asthma under control? This is so important because asthma flare-ups or attacks can put you at risk for complications from asthma. Dr. Khokhar
The first symptoms of an asthma attack might be coughing or wheezing. As it becomes worse, you will feel short of breath or have trouble breathing.
Each breath may not feel like you’re getting enough air. So you keep trying to get more air into your lungs or breathe faster than usual. Your chest may feel tight, almost as if someone is hugging you.
The idea of outgrowing childhood asthma is a common misconception. We approach asthma like its a lifelong disease. Even if you havent had symptoms or needed treatment in years, its still important to mention to your doctor if you ever have breathing issues again in adulthood. Dr. Amrita Khokhar
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How To Prevent An Asthma Attack
Preventing an asthma attack is easier to do if you know what triggers your asthma.
Avoidance of the triggers can help prevent an asthma attack in many cases, says David Stempel, MD, Senior VP of Clinical and Medical Affairs at Propeller Health. Asthma attacks can be further mitigated by taking preventative medications such as inhaled corticosteroids and in some cases using a short-acting bronchodilator, like albuterol, 15 minutes prior to exposure to a trigger like exercise.
Can Asthma Be Cured
Here at Asthma UK we’re striving to find a cure, but currently there is no cure for asthma.
The good news, though, is that there are lots of safe and effective treatments available to manage the symptoms.
You just need to work with your GP or asthma nurse to find the ones that work well for you, and get into good habits so you take them exactly as prescribed, so you can get the benefits.
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How Is Asthma Prevented And Treated
There is no cure for asthma. Control symptoms by taking asthma medicines and avoiding your triggers. With proper treatment and an asthma management plan, you can reduce your symptoms and enjoy a better quality of life.
Talk to your health care provider about your asthma symptoms and be sure to discuss any changes in your asthma management or status.
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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Common Asthma Attack Symptoms
During an asthma attack, it becomes very hard to breathe and your chest feels tight.
- Wheezing. High-pitched whistling sounds when you breathe out
- Shortness of breath. Difficulty catching your breath or getting enough air into your lungs
- Chest tightness and/or pain. May feel like being hugged tightly. Or a band is wrapped around your chest.
What Are The Treatments For Asthma
If you have asthma, you will work with your health care provider to create a treatment plan. The plan will include ways to manage your asthma symptoms and prevent asthma attacks. It will include
- Strategies to avoid triggers. For example, if tobacco smoke is a trigger for you, you should not smoke or allow other people to smoke in your home or car.
- Short-term relief medicines, also called quick-relief medicines. They help prevent symptoms or relieve symptoms during an asthma attack. They include an inhaler to carry with you all the time. It may also include other types of medicines which work quickly to help open your airways.
- Control medicines. You take them every day to help prevent symptoms. They work by reducing airway inflammation and preventing narrowing of the airways.
If you have a severe attack and the short-term relief medicines do not work, you will need emergency care.
Your provider may adjust your treatment until asthma symptoms are controlled.
Sometimes asthma is severe and cannot be controlled with other treatments. If you are an adult with uncontrolled asthma, in some cases your provider might suggest bronchial thermoplasty. This is a procedure that uses heat to shrink the smooth muscle in the lungs. Shrinking the muscle reduces your airway’s ability to tighten and allows you to breathe more easily. The procedure has some risks, so it’s important to discuss them with your provider.
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Am I Having An Asthma Attack
Last reviewed: Medically reviewed
An asthma attack has been described as feeling like a huge weight is on your chest, with that weight being so heavy that you struggle to draw breath.
The attack happens when the symptoms of asthma a condition that inflames the airways to the lungs get worse, leading to problems breathing.
Asthma is common, affecting more than 339 million people globally, according to the World Health Organization, and around half of those may experience at least 1 attack in a year. In the UK, an asthma attack occurs every 10 seconds.
Though attacks may be quite common among people with asthma, knowing how to recognise the signs of an attack and understanding why they happen can help you to manage them better and even prevent one.
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What Causes An Asthma Attack
An asthma attack can happen when you are exposed to asthma triggers. Your asthma triggers can be very different from someone elses asthma triggers. Know your triggers and learn how to avoid them. Watch out for an attack when you cant avoid your triggers. Some of the most common triggers are tobacco smoke, dust mites, outdoor air pollution, cockroach allergen, pets, mold, smoke from burning wood or grass, and infections like flu.
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Whats An Asthma Attack
When you breathe normally, muscles around your airways are relaxed, letting air move easily. During an asthma attack, three things can happen:
- Bronchospasm: The muscles around the airways constrict . When they tighten, it makes the airways narrow. Air cannot flow freely through constricted airways.
- Inflammation: The airway linings become swollen. Swollen airways dont let as much air in or out of the lungs.
- Mucus production: During the attack, your body creates more mucus. This thick mucus clogs airways.
Asthma Attack = A Symphony In Your Chest
Whenever he listened with his stethoscope, my doctor would always tell me that it sounded like a miniature symphony was playing in my chest.
At the time I giggled at the funny metaphor, but its actually quite accurate.
As your airways constrict and fill with mucus, only tiny passages are left for the air to travel through. This makes for a very noisy, whistle-y breathing experience.
So if you think you might be having an asthmatic episode, try blocking your ears with your fingers and taking a deep slow breath. Do you hear that symphony?
And if its your child or other loved one and youre trying to assess what the problem is, try putting your ear to their chest while they try to breathe.
If you hear the little whistles and wheezes that are synonymous with an asthma attack its time to act.
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Contact Doctor During Office Hours
- Dont have written asthma action plan from your doctor
- Use an inhaler, but dont have a spacer
- Miss more than 1 day of school per month for asthma
- Asthma limits exercise or sports
- Asthma attacks wake child up from sleep
- Use more than 1 inhaler per month
- No asthma check-up in more than 1 year
- You have other questions or concerns
Natural Selection And Evolution
Mutations alter an organism’s genotype and occasionally this causes different phenotypes to appear. Most mutations have little effect on an organism’s phenotype, health, or reproductive . Mutations that do have an effect are usually detrimental, but occasionally some can be beneficial. Studies in the fly suggest that if a mutation changes a protein produced by a gene, about 70 percent of these mutations will be harmful with the remainder being either neutral or weakly beneficial.
studies the distribution of genetic differences within populations and how these distributions change over time. Changes in the in a population are mainly influenced by , where a given allele provides a selective or reproductive advantage to the organism, as well as other factors such as , , , and .
Over many generations, the genomes of organisms can change significantly, resulting in . In the process called , selection for beneficial mutations can cause a species to evolve into forms better able to survive in their environment. New species are formed through the process of , often caused by geographical separations that prevent populations from exchanging genes with each other.
Organisms were chosen, in part, for convenienceâshort generation times and easy made some organisms popular genetics research tools. Widely used model organisms include the gut bacterium , the plant , baker’s yeast , the nematode , the common fruit fly , and the common house mouse .
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Whats An Asthma Flare
An asthma flare-up is when asthma symptoms get worse, making someone wheeze, cough, or be short of breath. An asthma flare-up can happen even when asthma is controlled.
Asthma flare-ups are also called asthma attacks or exacerbations.
like , respiratory infections , cigarette smoke, exercise, or even cold air can cause a flare-up and make asthma symptoms worse.
Move Away From Triggers
The presence of asthma triggers wont only cause an attack, they can also make your symptoms worse. Be sure to try to get away from things that may be triggering your asthma attack.
For example, if youre in an area where people are smoking cigarettes, you should move away promptly.
Its also important to know your triggers. Common triggers include:
- , such as pet dander, pollen, or certain foods
You should always be sure to seek immediate emergency medical treatment if you experience any of the following symptoms during an asthma attack:
- your symptoms continue to get worse even after treatment
- you cant speak except in short words or phrases
- youre straining your chest muscles in an effort to breathe
- your shortness of breath or wheezing is severe, particularly in the early morning or late-night hours
- you begin to feel drowsy or tired
- your lips or face appear blue when youre not coughing
Symptoms that indicate that you could be experiencing an asthma attack include:
- severe shortness of breath
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The Impact Of Asthma On Daily Life
Asthma is often under-diagnosed and under-treated, particularly in low- and middle-income countries.
People with under-treated asthma can suffer sleep disturbance, tiredness during the day, and poor concentration. Asthma sufferers and their families may miss school and work, with financial impact on the family and wider community. If symptoms are severe, people with asthma may need to receive emergency health care and they may be admitted to hospital for treatment and monitoring. In the most severe cases, asthma can lead to death.
Individual Triggers May Serve As Warning Signs
One of the neat things about asthma is that it communicates with you, letting you know when you are around one of your asthma triggers. How it communicates is by presenting you with early warning signs of asthma.
These signs include chest tightness, anxiety, runny nose, sneezing, coughing, headache, itchy chin, and neck, etc.
To learn your individual symptoms, you will actually have to experience an asthma attack. However, by observing the signs, and learning them, you can actually prevent future asthma attacks. So, once you observe your early warning signs, consider yourself “forewarned” that you are around something that is triggering your asthma, and it’s time to stop what you are doing, remove yourself from the situation, and treat yourself according to your asthma management plan, if necessary.
What Can I Expect At The Hospital
The doctor or nurse will check your oxygen level and give you more oxygen. He or she may check your peak flow and do a blood test. You may have to take other medicines, such as nebulizer treatments or steroids. The medicines may be given through an IV. You also may need to stay overnight in the hospital, depending on how bad your attack was and your response to treatment.
Your Body May Present With Early Symptoms
Response from Theresa Cannizzarro, Respiratory Therapist
There are several warning signs that can occur before an asthma attack happens. A very common one is that you will notice your peak flow numbers start to drop, often times days before you start experiencing symptoms. Noticing under your chin is itchy is another unusual, yet common warning sign of an impending asthma attack. Itchy throat, excessive tiredness, and moodiness can also occur a couple days to a couple hours before your asthma starts acting up.
It’s important to start paying close attention to your body for any of these symptoms you may experience. I recommend to my patients to keep an asthma diary/journal and write down every day how you are feeling as well as peak flows, and symptoms. You’ll start to notice a pattern and be able to better predict if/when your asthma will start acting up.
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Speak Up If You Need Help
If you have a child with asthma, encourage them to speak up if they feel like they are on the verge of having an asthma attack.
If they are home, they need to tell whomever is there to help them, says Dr. Luis Torero, MD, a pediatric pulmonologist with Northwestern Medicines Regional Medical Group. If they are at school, the same thing. They shouldnt be shy.
And if youre the one with asthma, the same advice applies. If you need help, ask.
Assessment Of The Severity Of Asthma Attack
The severity of the asthma attack must be rapidly evaluated by the following clinical criteria. Not all signs are necessarily present.
Assessment of severity in children over 2 years and adults
Mild to moderate attack
Able to talk in sentences
Cannot complete sentences in one breathorToo breathless to talk or feed
Altered level of consciousness
Bradycardia in children or arrhythmia/hypotension in adults
SpO2 < 92%
Treatment and follow-up depend on the severity of the attack and the patients response:
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A Cough That Doesn’t Go Away
Signs of an asthma attack can change from one attack to the next. One time you might have little or no coughing beforehand. The next time, you might have a cough that you just can’t get rid of, especially at night.
An asthma cough is usually dry and hacking. If you have one that doesn’t go away after other cold symptoms are gone, that could point to asthma.
Avoid taking cough medicine to feel better. It won’t help the asthma.
How Do My Airways React To Triggers
If you have asthma you have sensitive airways that are inflamed and ready to react when they come into contact with something they don’t like.
If you come into contact with one of your asthma triggers it causes your airways to react in three ways:
These reactions in the airways make it difficult to breathe and lead to asthma symptoms, such as chest tightness, wheezing, or coughing. It can also lead to an asthma attack.