According to the Centers for Disease Control, more than 25 million Americans have some form of asthma. With proper management, even those with the most severe asthma can learn to control their symptoms and minimize attacks.
At Adena Health, we have an expert team who will help you understand and manage your asthma. Dr. Esham will work with you to create an individualized asthma action plan that explains what medications you should take when you’re well and what to do when you’re sick. Our asthma nurse will teach you more about your asthma, including reviewing an asthma teaching book with and explaining how to use a spacer with your inhaler. Here’s a review video on spacer use.
Asthma affects many parts of your lungs including your large and small airways by causing swelling that can result in:
- Coughing, especially while exercising or at night
- Shortness of breath
- Chest tightness
Symptoms can range from just mildly annoying to severe enough to stop activity. Asthma can be life threatening if your airways become so inflamed that they stop the flow of oxygen to your bloodstream to feed your brain and heart.
Causes and risk factors
While we don’t know exactly why some people have asthma and others do not, it does tend to run in families and can be related to other conditions such as allergies or being overweight or obese. Certain environmental factors, such as smoking or exposure to secondhand smoke, exposure to pollution and chemicals such as those used in automotive work and hairdressing, are also a risk factor.
For many people with asthma, certain triggers can cause symptoms or bring on an asthma attack. According to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, common triggers include:
- Cigarette smoke
- Cockroach feces and saliva
- Cold air
- Dust mites, which feed on skin flakes in mattresses, pillows, carpets and other soft surfaces
- Foods including peanuts, soy, shellfish, milk
- Fragrances and other chemicals in candles, cleaning products, bleach, and perfumes
- Gas stoves without ventilation hoods
- Pet dander, hair and saliva
- Physical activity (exercise-induced asthma)
- Pollen from grasses, trees and weeds, which can vary seasonally
- Respiratory infections, such as bronchitis or the common cold
- Stress, anxiety, or laughing
If you experience asthma symptoms, your physician will typically do a physical exam to rule out other conditions such as COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease). You may also be given a pulmonary function test, such as spirometry, to see how well your lungs are working to move air through your respiratory system.
With a spirometry test, your physician will have you take a deep breath and then measure how much air you are able to exhale, and how fast. Often, you’ll do a baseline test, take a bronchodilator medication to open your airways, then take another test to see if your function improves.
Based on your symptoms, your asthma will be classified into one of four categories based on—among other indicators—how often you experience symptoms, how often symptoms keep you up at night, and how often symptoms interfere with your normal activities:
|Intermittent||≤ 2 days/week||≤2 times/month||None|
|Mild persistent||>2 days/week, not daily||3-4 times/month||Minor limitation|
|Moderate persistent||Daily||1 time/week, not nightly||Some limitation|
|Severe persistent||Multiple times/day||Often 7 nights a week||Extremely limited|
These classification guidelines vary for patients under age 12.
Medication for treatment of asthma is divided into two types: controller and quick relief.
Asthma control medications: With a good management strategy using a combination of corticosteroids and long-acting beta-agonist (LABA) medications, your airways are less likely to become inflamed and cause symptoms, even when exposed to triggers. Your medications may include an inhaled steroid such as Flovent or Ovar, or a combination medication such as Symbicort or Advair. While steroids reduce inflammation and minimize the mucus in your airways, LABAs help relax the muscles around your airways to keep them open. The key to controlling asthma is to take these medications as prescribed, even if you’re not experiencing symptoms.
Quick-relief medications: When you’re in the midst of an asthma attack, using a rescue inhaler, which delivers a short-acting beta-agonist (SABA) medication directly to your airways will help relax the muscles and improve your ability to breathe normally. Needing to use a rescue inhaler more than twice a week is a signal that you’re not properly using your controller medications and you should talk with your physician about your asthma management plan.
As with allergies, avoiding your asthma triggers is key. Make your house more asthma-friendly with these tips:
- Get rid of carpets in favor of wood, tile, or other hard-surface flooring.
- Use an air conditioner in the summer instead of opening windows to reduce pollen exposure and keep humidity low, which can help prevent mold and dust mites. If you don’t have an air conditioner, consider a dehumidifier and don’t sleep with bedroom windows open.
- Don’t hang clothes or linens out to dry where they can collect pollen. Dry them in a dryer instead.
- Cover your pillow and mattress with dust-mite-proof covers and dust your home, particularly your bedroom, often.
- Avoid harsh cleaning products, such as bleach, that might trigger an attack.
- Avoid smoke exposure, burning candles, and gas stoves without an exhaust fan.
TO SCHEDULE AN APPOINTMENT
If you have questions or would like to request an appointment please call 740-779-4393.