Asthma is a medical condition that makes the airways narrow swollen. Mucus is produced causing difficulty in breathing. Persons diagnosed with asthma should be able to learn how to manage the condition because minor and major symptoms interfere with activities for daily living. Thus, medical intervention for asthma management is recommended.
Severe asthma is a life-threatening situation and should be given prompt medical attention. Millions of Filipinos suffer from asthma. The medical condition has caused so much concern that World Asthma Day is commemorated every year both here in the Philippines and other parts of the globe.
Symptoms of asthma
- Shortness of breath *Chest pain or tightness in the chest area
- Sleeplessness due to coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath, and chest pain
- Mild intermittent asthma has mild symptoms that show up to two days a week or up to two nights a month
- Mild persistent asthma has symptoms occurring more than twice a week but no more than once in a single day.
- Moderate persistent asthma show symptoms once a day and more than one night a week.
- Severe persistent asthma has symptoms occurring throughout the day on most days and frequently at night.
Asthma is said to be a combination of environmental and genetic factors. Those who are susceptible to having asthma are very young children and/or the senior citizens. Asthma triggers are different from person to person. Exposure to a number of different allergens and irritants can trigger signs and symptoms of asthma.
Asthma is triggered by several causes:
- An exercise-induced asthma attack happens during physical activity especially when the air is cold and dry. Perspiration on the back part of the body should not be left to dry.
- Asthma made worse by irritants in the workplace is called occupational asthma.
- Fumes, dust, gases and other industrial and chemical related irritants can also trigger asthma.
Allergens like animal fur, pollen, dust mites and cockroaches induce asthma. The following are also asthma triggers:
- Viral and/or bacterial infection like cold and flu
- Allergens like dust, pollen, animal dander and sawdust among others
- Irritants like smoke, fumes, air pollution and scents
- Changes in weather and temperature
- Reaction to food and medications
- Strenuous activities
Asthma is a condition that affects day-to-day activities. Asthma flare-ups interfere with work, school, different physical activities, and sleep patterns as well. Sick days as well as emergency visits to the hospital are expected if the condition is not managed properly.
There could be permanent narrowing of the bronchial tubes that affect breathing. Side effects from medications taken for stabilizing asthma symptoms may also be encountered.
Two of the common risk factors that induce asthma are environmental pollutants and irritants. People residing in urban areas and near manufacturing zones are at risk with having asthma condition.
When to see a doctor
People diagnosed with asthma should regularly have a medical check-up to ensure that their condition is not worsening. It is recommended that the patient see a pulmonologist if coughing is frequent and if it persists for more than a few weeks. Early treatment of asthma decreases chances of attacks which in turn help improve the condition from worsening.
For diagnosis, a specialist will rule our other possible conditions that are similar to asthma such as emphysema, wheezy bronchitis, and pneumonia among others. Physical exams and questions on the different signs and symptoms will be thoroughly asked and recorded.
Tests that may be done include:
- Spirometry - Measures the narrowing of the bronchial tubes through breathing,
- Peak flow - A simple device that measures how hard the patient can breathe out.
Lung function tests may also be done through the administration of a bronchodilator to open the airways. Asthma is confirmed once breathing improves after this is used.
Management and treatment
Keeping asthma under control should be supervised by a doctor. Early and proper treatment helps in the management of the condition. Regular check-up should be done to ensure the treatment program is still working.
If asthma gets worse, consult a specialist immediately. Self-medication should not be done to avoid harmful side effects. Asthma can be a life-threatening condition if proper treatment is not given.
Prevention and long-term control is the key to preventing asthma attacks. Treatment usually involves learning to recognize the triggers, taking steps to avoid them, and tracking one’s breathing to ensure that daily asthma medications are keeping symptoms under control. In case of an asthma flare-up, one may need to use a quick-relief inhaler such as albuterol.
Medication will depend on the age, symptoms, asthma triggers, and what makes the asthma under control. It is best that medications are done under the strict supervision of a specialist who will also monitor improvements of the symptoms.
Avoid asthma triggers to prevent asthma flare-ups by:
- Using the air-conditioner to reduce pollen from outside sources from entering the house.
- Keeping immediate environment as dust-free as possible.
- Avoiding food that causes flare-ups.
- Keeping the indoor air clean by installing filters.
- Staying healthy by eating food that keep the lungs healthy and decrease asthma symptoms.
- Having the appropriate exercise to build resistance is also recommended.
All of these should also be done under the supervision of a doctor.
Alternative medicine such as homeopathy, relaxation techniques, acupuncture, and herbal remedies may also improve asthma symptoms. However, it is best to consult a doctor before undergoing through any of this alternative medication.
- World Asthma Day. WikiFilipino. (Accessed 07 January 2011)
- “World Asthma Day Philippines.” Philippine Online Chronicles. (Accessed 05 January 2011)
- Asthma. Mayo Clinic. (Accessed 05 January 2011)