Asthma is a chronic inflammatory disease of the airways in both lungs. The airways are ducts that carry oxygenated air inside the lungs and waste-rich air out from our lungs. In asthma, these airways become inflamed and produce more mucus, which leads to narrowing of airways. The inflamed airways make it harder to flow air and cause difficulty in breathing.
Asthma can occur at any age but generally starts from childhood. Many trigger factors exacerbate asthma symptoms, such as cold atmosphere, pollen, smoke, mold, exertion, infection, playing sports, strong smells, or dust. Many asthmatic persons limit their physical activities due to fear of triggering another asthma attack.
Symptoms of asthma
During an asthma bout, an asthmatic person can feel the following symptoms:
- Coughs occur at night or during exercise. It can be dry or sometimes with phlegm
- Difficulty in breathing, shortness of breath, and fast breathing
- Wheezing during breathing out air (exhaling)
- Chest pain and feeling of tightness around the chest
- Anxiety and fatigue
- Difficulty in sleeping
- Frequent respiratory infections
Causes of asthma
There is no exact cause of asthma, but certain factors can increase risk, such as:
- Genetics: One has a high chance of developing asthma if they have a family history of asthma or allergic diseases.
- Allergies: If you have allergies, then it increases your risk of developing the asthma
- Environmental factors: anyone can develop asthma because of certain respiratory irritating factors, such as fumes, mold, smoke, pollution, allergens, chemicals, and strong smells.
- Weaken immune system: Harmful trigger factors can stimulate the risk of asthma, especially in infants and young children who have immature immune systems.
- Respiratory infection: some respiratory infections, including respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), can increase the risk of developing asthma in young children.
Treatment of asthma
Asthma and other respiratory conditions are becoming common due to emerging pollution and lifestyle change. Although there is no permanent cure, there are various treatment modalities that reduce flare-ups and help in managing your asthma.
Prevention and long-term control are the two crucial keys to halting an asthma attack before starting. Prevention usually involves knowing your trigger factors and taking appropriate steps to avoid triggers.
Following are some treatment options for immediate relief of asthma symptoms:
- Bronchodilators: These medicines give immediate symptomatic relief by relaxing worked-up muscles around the airways during an asthma attack. Bronchodilators or inhalers are generally helpful for 4 to 6 hours.
- Anti-inflammatory drugs: These medicines reduce inflammation and swelling in your airways. They also limit mucus production in your airways. A healthcare provider prescribes anti-inflammatory drugs to control or prevent symptomatic exacerbation of chronic asthma.
- Corticosteroids: Inhaled, oral, or intravenous corticosteroids relieve airway inflammation due to severe asthma.
How can we manage asthma?
Asthma is becoming a concerning problem, especially in children. We can reduce its impact on our daily life and activities and reduce asthma flare-ups and severity of symptoms by managing asthma. It includes:
- Identify your trigger factors and try to avoid them so that you can control your asthma flare-ups.
- Diet control: A nutrient-rich diet with fresh fruits and vegetables and weight management helps control asthma. Obesity increases the severity of asthma.
- Breathing exercises: These exercises ease breathing and enhance other treatment effectiveness. Breathing exercises reduce severe asthma symptoms in the long term and improve quality of life. Some breathing exercises that are effective in asthma symptoms are:
- Nasal breathing: involves inhaling from one nostril and exhaling through the other nostril while closing the opposite nostril with fingers. Nasal breathing exercise helps in enhance our lung function and improves respiratory muscle strength.
- Diaphragmatic breathing: The diaphragmatic breathing practice helps in strengthen the diaphragm muscle. It also improves breathing quality and decreases our body’s oxygen demand. Diaphragmatic breathing also decreases strain on respiratory muscles and reduces blood pressure.
- Pursed lip breathing: In this technique, you should slow breathe through your nose with your mouth closed, then breathe out through your pursed lips as if you are about to whistle. This breathing helps control shortness of breath symptoms and helps in improving the pace of breathing.
- Yoga breathing: Practicing deep breathing as in yoga improves asthma symptoms and lung functioning.
Managing asthma and practicing breathing exercises reduce asthma flare-ups and improve control of asthma symptoms. Before practicing these exercises, you should consult your healthcare provider about them. Breathing exercises with a combination of medication can improve the quality of life, and you can do daily activities normally.