How To Tell If Your Asthma Is Severe
Doctors differentiate severe asthma from other, milder forms of asthma according to the frequency and intensity of a persons symptoms.
For starters, severe asthma is persistent, which doctors define as asthma that causes symptoms more than twice a week, explains Patricia Takach, MD, an associate professor of clinical medicine in the section of allergy and immunology at the University of Pennsylvanias Perelman School of Medicine in Philadelphia. For many severe asthma sufferers, symptoms occur daily.
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.
What Types Of Asthma Are There
Healthcare providers identify asthma as intermittent or persistent . Persistent asthma can be mild, moderate or severe. Healthcare providers base asthma severity on how often you have attacks. They also consider how well you can do things during an attack.
Asthma can be:
- Allergic: Some peoples allergies can cause an asthma attack. Molds, pollens and other allergens can cause an attack.
- Non-allergic: Outside factors can cause asthma to flare up. Exercise, stress, illness and weather may cause a flare.
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Best Places To Live With Asthma
The following cities were at the bottom of the AAFAs 2019 list, meaning they were the best places to live with asthma of the analyzed cities. As a reminder, local asthma triggers mean each individuals experience may vary by location.
1. Cape Coral, FL
Cape Coral, FL takes the top spot as the best place to live with asthma because of its low prevalence of asthma and low number of asthma-related emergency room visits. Furthermore, the;tropical conditions;may actually provide relief for some asthmatics.
2. McAllen, TX
McAllen, TX ranked second because of the citys low number of asthma-related emergency room visits and asthma-related deaths. Although it should be noted that McAllen, TX also had the reports highest rate of poverty and it was also rated as the;most challenging;place to live with spring allergies.
3. Houston, TX
Houston, TX took the third spot and scored exceptionally with a low asthma prevalence, low amount of asthma-related emergency room visits, and a low number of asthma-related deaths. Furthermore, the city even has an;Asthma Prevention and Control Program;which promotes asthma-friendly policies to help asthmatics, with a special emphasis on helping children.
4. Sarasota, FL
Sarasota, FL holds the fourth spot on the list due to its low prevalence of asthma, but its also notable for the areas;exceptional air quality.
5. Daytona Beach, FL
6. El Paso, TX
7. San Antonio, TX
8. San Jose, CA
9. Palm Bay, FL
10. Provo, UT
The Temperature And Air Quality In The Place You’re Exercising
Exercise is one trigger of asthma. If you combine the trigger of exercise with these other triggers from the environment around you, you’re more likely to get asthma symptoms:
- cold air
- low humidity; therefore exercising in cold, dry air outside during the winter can be hazardous
- pollution in the air
- inhaled allergens: grass, pollen, ragweed, etc.
- irritants such as strong fumes from art supplies, cosmetics and smoke
- car and truck exhaust and pollutants from factories, especially sulphur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, ground-level ozone
- respiratory infections – a recent cold may cause a person to have more difficulty than normal with exercise
- emotional stress
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Other Medication And Asthma Triggers
Some medication for other health conditions can make asthma symptoms worse and trigger an asthma flare-up or attack.
It is very important that you inform your doctor and pharmacist that you have asthma when a new medicine is prescribed to you or when you are buying over-the-counter medication or complementary therapies.
If you feel a particular medicine is making your asthma worse, treat your symptoms and contact your doctor immediately.Some medicines known to trigger asthma symptoms in some people include:;
- aspirin contained in some medication, such as pain relievers
- non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen and naproxen
- beta-blocker tablets often used to control high blood pressure
- beta-blocker eye drops to treat the eye condition glaucoma
- ace inhibitors often used to control high blood pressure.
What Is Normal Breathing
When most of us breathe, the muscles that are wrapped around the air tubes;;are very loose and relaxed, and the lining inside the airways is very thin. This lets the airways open up very wide so that it is easy to get air in and out of the small air sacs that make up our lungs. These small sacs are called;alveoli . When air moves in and out of our lungs, we call it;breathing.
The picture below shows what your lungs look like when everything is working normally. The muscles wrapped around the airways are very thin and loose, and the airway is wide open. This makes it easy to move air in and out of the air sacs.
The animation below shows normal breathing. As we breathe in, air that contains lots of oxygen is pulled into the lungs. This oxygen slowly moves from the lungs into the blood. Then air that contains carbon dioxide is pushed back out through the lungs as we breathe out. When things are working normally, the amount of air we breathe in is about the same as the amount of air we breathe out.
What lungs look like during normal breathing
When you are breathing normally, it takes about the same amount of time to breathe in;;as it does to breathe out;.
During an asthma attack, it is harder and takes much longer to breathe;out; than;to breathe in . Since it is so hard to breathe out during an asthma attack, more and more air gets trapped inside the lungs ;making it feel like you cant breathe in or out!
Asthma Symptoms Acute Vs Chronic
In medical related matters, acute simply means short term, and chronic means long term. Although asthma is a chronic disorder, since it usually lasts a long time , you can have both chronic and acute asthma symptoms. If someone does not properly manage their asthma, they can have regular chronic symptoms for many weeks, months, or even years. For example, they could experience a regular cough that lasts a long time if not managed properly.
Then on top of the regular chronic cough, they may also sometimes experience an acute asthma worsening that leads to a symptom such as shortness of breath. This could perhaps be due to getting a cold, or exposure to pollen or air pollution.
When someone has asthma, it is very important to keep it well controlled so that there are no chronic asthma symptoms. You cant avoid all asthma symptoms all the time, but in general the symptoms should be uncommon and mild.
It is also very important to monitor your asthma so that you notice when there are acute asthma symptoms starting and can take the necessary measures to get it under control before it leads to an asthma attack. A written asthma action plan from your doctor can be very helpful in guiding your treatment decisions.
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- Medical history
- Test results, such as a lung function test
How Long Asthma Lasts For
Asthma is a long-term condition;for many people, particularly if it first develops when you’re an adult.
In children, it sometimes goes away or improves during the teenage years, but can come back later in life.
The;symptoms can usually be controlled with treatment. Most people will have normal, active lives, although some people with more severe asthma may;have ongoing problems.
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Other Tips For Exercising With Asthma
In addition to choosing less strenuous activities, you can also follow these tips to reduce your asthma symptoms:
- Use an inhaler before exercise. Your doctor can prescribe a rescue inhaler as a pre-exercise treatment. These inhaled medications will relax the airways, making it easier to breathe during physical activity.
- Take medication for long-term control. If a pre-exercise inhaler doesnt manage your symptoms, you may be given another medication. This could include oral drugs or additional inhalers that decrease airway inflammation.
- Warm up and cool down. Always warm up before exercise to let your body adjust. When youre done, gradually stop the activity.
- Wear a mask or scarf. Cover your nose and mouth when its cold outside. The dryness of cool air can tighten your airways.
- Limit your exposure to pollen and pollution. If youre allergic to pollen, exercise inside when pollen levels are high. Stay in areas with minimal air pollution.
- Avoid sports with continuous activity. Basketball, soccer, and long-distance running can be hard on the lungs if your asthma is poorly controlled. Avoid sports that are done in the cold, like cross-country skiing and hockey.
Most importantly, take breaks as necessary.
You should also ask your doctor what you should do if you have an asthma attack while exercising. By having a plan in place, you can workout with confidence.
Preventer Medication For Asthma
Preventer medication makes the airways less sensitive and reduces inflammation and swelling. It needs to be taken as prescribed, over the long term, to be most effective in reducing the risk and severity of any flare-ups.Most preventer medication for asthma is inhaled corticosteroid. Because the medication goes straight to your lungs where it is needed, the risk of side effects from taking inhaled steroids is very low.
Most adults with asthma can achieve good control of their asthma symptoms with a low dose of inhaled corticosteroid.
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What Are The Signs And Symptoms Of Asthma Types
Symptoms may occur during the day or at night. If they happen at night, they may disturb your sleep.
Wheezing is the most common symptom of an asthma attack.
Current guidelines for the care of people with asthma include classifying the severity of asthma symptoms, as follows:
The exact cause of asthma is not known.
What Should I Do If I Have A Severe Asthma Attack
A severe asthma attack needs immediate medical care. The first step is your rescue inhaler. A rescue inhaler uses fast-acting medicines to open up your airways. Its different than your normal maintenance inhaler, which you use every day. You should only use the rescue inhaler in an emergency.
If your rescue inhaler doesnt help or you dont have it with you, go to the emergency department if you have:
- Anxiety or panic.
- Bluish fingernails, bluish lips or gray or whitish lips or gums .
- Chest pain or pressure.
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Sports With Short Bursts Of Activity
The following sports are appropriate for people with asthma. These activities involve intermittent breaks, which are gentler on the lungs.
Sometimes, it can be difficult to tell if your symptoms are caused by asthma or just being out of shape. In both cases, the usual symptoms include:
- shortness of breath
- sore throat
- upset stomach
Typically, these symptoms start after 5 to 20 minutes of working out. They might continue for 10 to 15 minutes after you stop exercising.
Its common to have these symptoms if youre out of shape. If you have EIB or asthma, the symptoms will be significantly more severe and will likely include coughing and wheezing.
Another sign of EIB is excess mucus production. This occurs due to airway inflammation and usually wont happen because of poor fitness condition.
What Occupations Are At Risk For Asthma
Some of the occupations where asthma has been seen are listed in the following tables. It should be noted that the lists of occupational substances and microbes which can cause asthma are not complete. New causes continue to be added. New materials and new processes introduce new exposures and create new risks.
Not specifically listed are common household and workplace triggers which include dust, mould, pollen, scents, and smoke.
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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.
Monitoring Asthma At Home
Some people use a handheld peak flow meter to evaluate their breathing and determine when they need intervention, before their symptoms become severe. People who experience frequent, severe asthma attacks should know how to reach help quickly.
Peak expiratory flow can be measured using a small handheld device called a peak flow meter. This test can be used at home to monitor the severity of asthma. Usually, peak flow rates are lowest between 4 AM and 6 AM and highest at 4 PM. However, more than a 30% difference in rates at these times is considered evidence of moderate to severe asthma. People with moderate to severe asthma, particularly those who need daily treatment to control symptoms, often use a peak flow meter to take measurements and compare them to their personal best to help identify signs of worsening asthma or the onset of an asthma attack.
All people with asthma should have a written treatment action plan that was devised in collaboration with their doctor. Such a plan allows them to take control of their own treatment and has been shown to decrease the number of times people need to seek care for asthma in the emergency department.
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Why Is It Important To Get The Vaccine If You Have Asthma
To protect yourself from coronavirus infection and to lower your risk of severe symptoms if you do become infected, its important for people with asthma to get the COVID-19 vaccine when eligible. It is important for everyone to receive a COVID-19 vaccine as soon as they are eligible, as this is the best path towards preventing severe illness, Dr. Stukus says.
Vaccination also protects others by helping build herd immunity, which controls the spread of the virus. Vaccinating everyone is the pathway toward ending the pandemic, according to the;American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology.
Medical History And Physical Exam
Your doctor will ask about your risk factors for asthma and your symptoms. They may ask also about any known allergies. This includes how often symptoms occur, what seems to trigger your symptoms, when or where symptoms occur, and if your symptoms wake you up at night.
During the physical exam, your doctor may:
- Listen to your breathing and look for symptoms of asthma
- Look for allergic skin conditions, such as eczema
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Global Alliance Against Chronic Respiratory Diseases
The Global Alliance against Chronic Respiratory Diseases contributes to WHOs work to prevent and control chronic respiratory diseases. GARD is a voluntary alliance of national and international organizations and agencies from many countries committed to the vision of a world where all people breathe freely.
How Can Adult Onset Asthma Be Managed
If you manage your asthma, you can expect to lead a normal lifestyle. Basically, there are four key steps to managing asthma successfully:
1.;;;Learn about asthma and stay up-to-date on new developments.
2.;; Take prescribed medications. Dont make any changes until you check with your physician. Dont use over- the-counter medications unless prescribed by your physician!
3.;; Check your lungs daily at home by using a peak flow meter. Asthma patients often can detect lung changes with a peak flow meter before they actually experience any changes. Visit your physician regularly for further in-office tests. Lung testing is painless and provides valuable data that helps your physician make adjustments in your medication.
4. ;; Make an asthma management plan with your physician. A plan establishes guidelines that tell you what to do if your asthma symptoms get worse.
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