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Why Asthma Makes It Hard To Breathe

How Often Should You Take Peak Flow Measurements

Asthma | Clinical Presentation

Peak flow readings can be taken on a regular basis or only at certain times. Regular monitoring may be useful when you are first diagnosed with asthma to determine your normal peak flow rates. Regular monitoring is also important when your asthma is unstable, or for those who do not notice symptoms when their asthma starts getting out of control. If your peak flow rate has dropped below your normal, you can act quickly to get control before it becomes serious.

Triggers are the things that can cause your asthma symptoms. Each person has their own set of asthma triggers. Over time you can figure out what your asthma triggers are and take steps to reduce your exposure.

There are two types of asthma triggers:

  • Allergens
  • Irritants

Here are some tips that can help you stay active:

  • Do not start exercising if you have any asthma symptoms
  • Warm up by starting at a slower paceincrease the pace slowly
  • If you need to take a reliever inhaler before exercising, it should be taken about 10-15 minutes before the activity
  • If you develop asthma symptoms while exercising, stop immediatelyuse your reliever inhaler and do not start again unless your symptoms are completely gone.
  • Consider exercising indoors when outdoor conditions may trigger your asthma
  • When exercising in cold weather, cover your nose and mouth with a scarf or cold weather mask
  • If symptoms continue, your asthma may not be under controlwork with your health-care provider to improve your asthma management

Be Familiar With Your Inhaler

For those times when you cant breathe, knowing where your inhaler is, how much medicine it contains and how to use it properly can greatly relieve your breathing distress. Using your inhaler properly is really important for getting the medicine into your lungs, Dr. Raub says. If youre not sure how to use it, ask your doctor or pharmacist. Common-sense guidelines for optimal inhaler use include:

  • Shake the canister for 10 seconds and take off the cap.
  • Attach a spacer device to the inhaler to get more medicine into your lungs.
  • Take a slow, deep breath just after you press down on the canister and inhale through your mouth, not your nose. Hold your breath for 10 seconds. After 30 seconds, repeat with a second puff and a third, if needed.

Spending More Time Inside Can Trigger Asthma

Cold air can trigger an asthma attack, so many people with asthma avoid going outside in the winter. But indoor air isnt necessarily better. Indoor air can be filled with dust, dander, and mold that can cause asthma attacks, too.

Indoor air is often warm and dry, and central heating systems circulate cold and flu viruses through offices and schools. Dry air irritates your airways, leaving you susceptible to an asthma attack.

Your body naturally produces mucus to line and protect your sinuses, throat, lungs, and more from drying out. It keeps your airways moist, but dry air can make it evaporate quickly and lead to irritation. Once your airways are inflamed, they swell up and make it hard to breathe.

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How Can You Tell If You Have 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.

How Do Your Airways Work When You Have Asthma

What is Asthma

When you have asthma, your airways aren’t able to function as well as they should.

  • Wheezing
  • Chest tightness

Asthma causes inflammation, or swelling, in the lungs. It can also cause squeezing, called bronchoconstriction , and extra sensitive or twitchy airways.

When something bothers your airways, you have trouble breathing. This is called an asthma attack or episode. It gets harder to breathe because the tiny muscles around your airways squeeze tightly and they have swelling inside.

Your airways will make more mucus inside your airways, which makes it even harder to breathe. These changes in your airways can cause coughing and wheezing.

There is no cure for asthma. But you can take steps to manage it. If you have asthma, it’s important to see an asthma specialist, like an allergist or pulmonologist, to come up with the right asthma treatment plan. Medicines and avoiding asthma triggers can help reduce swelling and relax tight muscles in your airways.

ASTHMA Care for Adults

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What Asthma Treatment Options Are There

You have options to help manage your asthma. Your healthcare provider may prescribe medications to control symptoms. These include:

  • Anti-inflammatory medicines: These medicines reduce swelling and mucus production in your airways. They make it easier for air to enter and exit your lungs. Your healthcare provider may prescribe them to take every day to control or prevent your symptoms.
  • Bronchodilators: These medicines relax the muscles around your airways. The relaxed muscles let the airways move air. They also let mucus move more easily through the airways. These medicines relieve your symptoms when they happen.
  • Biologic therapies for asthma when symptoms persist despite being on proper inhaler therapy.

You can take asthma medicines in several different ways. You may breathe in the medicines using a metered-dose inhaler, nebulizer or other inhaler. Your healthcare provider may prescribe oral medications that you swallow.

Can Low Humidity Make It Hard To Breathe

So much about how high humidity makes it hard to breath, but can low humidity also make it hard to breath?

Well, according to an article on webMD, people who have Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disorder, high or low humidity is bad for this condition. For instance, dry air can cause inflammation and irritation of the airways.

High humidity makes the air denser and harder to breathe. Therefore, you have to work extra hard to inhale. Most indoor allergens such as mold and dust mites also thrive when there is high humidity.

Thus, you need to maintain a balanced humidity indoors. It should never be out of the range of 30 and 50 percent. Some sources also say 35 to 55 percent.

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Shortness Of Breath And Its Causes

Theres no clear definition of shortness of breath, but most people describe it as a feeling of being unable to get enough air, or that breathing takes more effort than usual. Some people may feel chest tightness. Shortness of breath may come on in a matter of minutes, or develop chronically over much longer lengths of time.

In the vast majority of cases, shortness of breath is because of conditions related to the heart and lungs. Some of the more common causes include:

  • COPD
  • Asthma
  • Serious heart conditions, such as heart attacks or congestive heart failure
  • Pulmonary embolism
  • Obesity
  • Bronchitis or pneumonia
  • A collapsed lung
  • If shortness of breath is chronic meaning it has lasted for weeks or longer its often due to any of the above causes.

How Do Healthcare Providers Diagnose Asthma

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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 healthcare provider may order a chest X-ray, blood test or skin test. Your provider may order spirometry. This test measures airflow through your lungs.

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Simple Tips To Stop Asthma Waking You At Night In The Long

You dont have to just accept your night-time asthma symptoms as normal.

  • Using your preventer inhaler every day, as prescribed, will build up protection in your airways and keep your asthma symptoms under control, so theyre less likely to wake you at night.
  • If youre having asthma symptoms at night or noticing asthma symptoms when you first wake up, you should make a same day appointment to see your GP or asthma nurse. Symptoms that keep you awake at night are one of the signs you might be at risk of an asthma attack.

Its also important to:

  • Use your written asthma action plan to help you understand how to manage your symptoms and what to do if they get worse.
  • Go for regular asthma reviews with your GP or asthma nurse. They can check youre using your inhalers correctly. Its also a chance to talk about any triggers that might be affecting your sleep.

How Severe Is The Asthma

Asthma symptoms can range from an occasional, slight urge to cough to extreme shortness of breath during an attack. Asthma used to be classified into four general severity categories, mostly depending on how frequent and how severe the symptoms were. Nowadays, asthma symptoms tend to be assessed based on how effectively they are being managed. According to this approach, there are three levels of severity: controlled, partly controlled, and uncontrolled asthma.

This classification is based on factors such as

  • how many times a week someone has symptoms during the day,
  • how much their daily activities are affected by the ,
  • whether they also have symptoms at night, and
  • how much the affects their lung function.

The frequency of acute episodes with shortness of breath, wheezing, coughing and chest tightness is also taken into account.

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Tips From Other People With Asthma

If your asthma is keeping you awake at night, youre not alone.

In our recent sleep survey, 45% of people told us they have difficulty sleeping because of their asthma at least once a week, and nearly 50% said theyd had an asthma attack at night.

Here are some of the things that people tell us help them get a good nights sleep, which our nurses agree might be helpful:

  • Ease a dry throat with a glass of water
  • Try a nasal saline rinse or use decongestants to unblock a stuffy nose
  • Take regular exercise
  • Relax in the evening using mindfulness, meditation, breathing exercises or yoga
  • Avoid caffeine in the afternoon and evening.

If you find reading about other peoples experiences useful, or have some advice to share, join the conversations on our HealthUnlocked forum.

Is your child disturbed by symptoms at night? Read our advice on asthma and your childs sleep.

What To Do When Asthma Stops You Sleeping

Why does asthma make it difficult to breathe?
  • If you have asthma symptoms, sit up and take your reliever inhaler as prescribed.
  • Always make sure your inhaler is beside your bed before you go to sleep, so you dont have to search for it in the middle of the night.
  • Give yourself a bit of time to check your reliever medicine has dealt with your symptoms before you go back to sleep, says Dr Andy Whittamore. This is better than falling asleep straight away only to wake up soon after with asthma symptoms because your reliever didnt help enough.
  • Some people find propping themselves up with extra pillows helps as it keeps the airways open.

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What Causes Shortness Of Breath

In asthma, shortness of breath is usually caused by the narrowing of the airways. The airways become narrow for one or both reasons:

  • The muscles that surround the airways tighten up .
  • Inflammation makes the airways swell and fill with mucus.

The medical term for shortness of breath is dyspnea. People describe it as air hunger, fast breathing, running out of air, or not being able to breath fast or deep enough.1,4 Similar to thirst, hunger, or pain, it is nearly impossible to ignore.4 Because it is a subjective symptom, you can feel and describe it, but a health care provider cannot observe or measure it.

Why May Further Tests Be Needed

Asthma symptoms can vary a lot over time. Even if you have , your doctor may not find any signs of asthma when checking your lung function for the first time. Nearly all of the tests measure how narrow your are. But if you happen to be symptom-free when the test is done, your bronchi will be almost normal too. People who smoke, are overweight, or generally unfit may also have typical asthma symptoms like shortness of breath, despite not having asthma. To make sure you get an accurate result, the following things may be done after the first reading:

  • You may be given a substance which causes the airways of people with to temporarily become narrower .
  • You may be asked to get on a treadmill or an exercise bike. In people with , the lung function reading is often worse following vigorous physical activity .
  • You may be given an inhaler to open your airways. If your lung capacity improves after using the inhaler, it is a sign that you have asthma .

Lung x-rays or blood tests are generally only used if the symptoms and findings aren’t very typical of , and the doctor would like to rule out another disease. This is because the breathing difficulties could also be caused by other illnesses such as pneumonia or chronic obstructive .

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While Waiting For Medical Help To Arrive:

  • Have person sit up with arms resting on a table .
  • Do not have person breathe into a bag.
  • Stay calm, reassure the person, and stay by his/her side.
  • Notify emergency contact if known.

After youve had a worsening of your asthma or an asthma attack, make an appointment with your health-care provider. There may be a need to adjust the doses of your medications. You can also discuss possible reasons why your asthma got out of control and find ways to prevent this in the future.

Different people have different asthma symptoms, which can change over time or depending on the situation. Common asthma signs and symptoms include:

  • Feeling short of breath
  • Chest tightness
  • Coughing
  • Wheezing

These symptoms can also be caused by other conditions. If you have these symptoms or if you think you might have asthma, see your doctor for a proper diagnosis.

Differences Between Copd And Asthma

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Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease is a progressive lung disorder most commonly associated with smoking. In the early stages of the disease, the symptoms may mimic those of asthma and may even flare if the lungs are exposed to allergens, fumes, or cold weather.

Among the differentiating early clues are fluid retention, trouble sleeping, an increasing nagging cough, and bringing up clear, whitish, or yellow phlegm.

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Taking A Hard Look At The Research

It seems like common sense that people with asthma, a condition where lung function is impaired and breathing may be difficult, should avoid cannabis, considering smoking is the most common way people use the substance.

But current scientific research on whether cannabis hurts, or could help, asthma is actually mixed.

Considering the lack of cohesive, long-term evidence on this complicated relationship, clinicians and scientists argue people with asthma should practice caution with smoking cannabis.

They also say young people should abstain altogether, though other forms of consumption, like edibles, present less of a risk and may prove to be helpful down the line.

Learning More About Asthma

Asthma is a lung disease which makes it difficult for lungs to move air in and out. There are 4 things that you should learn about asthma:

  • Asthma is a lifelong disease
  • Asthma can be life threatening.
  • Asthma doesnt have any cure till date.
  • It is possible to manage asthma symptoms and lead a healthy life.

Asthma can develop at any age. Some people develop asthma symptoms at very young age while some people can get asthma when they are older. Exact cause of asthma is still unknown. But factors like genetics, allergies, respiratory infections and environment can develop asthma symptoms.

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Be Cautious About Outdoor Exercise

If your condition is mild and youre used to exercising outdoors it might be OK to continue. In sparse areas you might not need to wear a mask, but it is smart to carry one with you in case you end up closer to others than expected.

People with asthma might benefit from using a rescue inhaler before heading outdoors with a mask on. While not perfect, it may not be a bad idea because it can open your airways and at least improve your baseline air flow in the short term, says Dr. Elliott.

What Should I Do If I Have A Severe Asthma Attack

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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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