Asthma and When to See a Doctor
Asthma is characterized by reversible airway obstruction and is prevalent among children and adults. The recurring inflammation results from sticky mucus build-up that clogs the lining of the bronchial tubes, leading to breathing difficulties. Asthma can differ from person to person, and although most asthma attacks are manageable, the condition has no cure yet. The word asthma comes from Azein, a Greek word that means "breathe hard."
According to studies, chronic respiratory disease results in 1.6 million emergency visits and 4,100 deaths yearly in the United States. The disease's telltale signs afflict about 25 million U.S. residents, meaning one in every 13 people is likely to develop asthma. Chronic asthma is potentially fatal to patients if poorly controlled. Migration from rural to urban regions is the leading cause of the increase in allergic diseases such as asthma, with industrial gases in metropolitan cities being the leading factor.
Signs and Symptoms of Asthma
In most cases, the signs of asthma range from mild to severe. What's more, Asthma signs and symptoms may vary between adults and children. However, some symptoms are common to all, making it easy to diagnose the condition early. Wheezing is the cardinal symptom of asthma, and some patients experience it in the form of gasping, whistling, or rattling due to chest tightness. The wheezing can last up to five days.
Asthma symptoms are also known as asthma attacks. The common signs and symptoms of asthma include Shortness of breath, coughing at night or early morning, chest pains, and difficulties in speaking. The coughing in asthma is accompanied by heavy mucus discharge. Some may also experience Sweating, rapid breathing, rapid pulse, fatigue, and anxious feelings like anxiety. Asthma attacks occur in stages, and it is essential to know your symptoms for easier management.
When to See a Doctor
If asthma is managed properly, hospitalization is rare. The best way to manage asthma is always to have an inhaler close to you. Inhalers are essential to people whose condition is triggered by allergies or individuals who travel a lot. Although asthma symptoms are easily controllable, working closely with your pulmonologist after every asthma attack is highly recommended. Seeking medical help within 72 hours of asthma symptoms can lead to reduced asthma attacks, quicker relief of chest tightness, and reduced chances of emergency room care. Consultation with a doctor can also enhance safety during outdoor activities during the symptomatic period. For emergency care, patients should visit the hospital if:
• Your lips and fingernails turn blue or gray
• You are having feelings of confusion and reduced concentration
• Your breathing rate increases to 30 or more breaths per minute
• Dizziness occurs
• Your asthma attack is not relieved by an inhaler or nebulizer
Causes of Asthma
Asthma triggers are the leading cause of asthma, but when sinusitis is present, bacteria, viruses, and fungi can also cause asthmatic attacks. The primary asthma triggers are exposure to allergens such as pollen, pet hair, dust, perfumes, cigarette smoke, and the smell of wet paint. In addition, laughing, crying hard, and other activities such as strenuous exercise contribute to asthma episodes. Most asthmatic attacks lie dormant among patients but can be triggered during cold weather. However, asthma is not a contagious disease.
Risk Factors of Asthma
Asthma is more likely present in people with risk factors predisposing them to the condition. In the United States, most adults had asthma when they were young, mainly because of a respiratory infection at the age of five and below. This, therefore, makes it a significant risk factor for asthma. A family history of asthma can also be a reason a patient is predisposed to the disease since genes play a role in predisposition. Male babies are more likely to get predisposed, but by age 20, the male to female ratio of asthma patients is equal.
Environmental factors such as smoke, cold temperature, and high humidity lead to many respiratory conditions, asthma being one of them. For example, among young adults, studies have shown that cigarette smoking can directly cause asthma. Moreover, pregnant mothers who smoke have a high likelihood of their newborns developing asthma. Other risk factors include obesity, premature birth, and early exposure to broad-spectrum antibiotics.
Avoiding asthma triggers is another method of prevention. The most effective way to prevent asthma is by controlling asthma attacks, which involves inhalers and nebulizers. Other known methods of preventing asthma include exclusive breastfeeding of babies for six months, smoking cessation among parents, and proper diet during pregnancy.
Unfortunately, asthma has no cure, and its symptoms can only be managed. However, with proper techniques, asthma can turn from a scary disease to an easily manageable condition. Control drugs such as Ventolin found in inhalers can treat asthma in a short time frame. Other ways include avoiding triggers, quitting smoking, and maintaining a proper diet. Most cases of asthma as manageable at home, but consulting your doctor is always recommended.