Asthma is a chronic (as opposed to temporary) condition caused by swollen or inflamed airways in your lungs. This swelling makes it harder to move air in and out of your lungs, especially when you’re exposed to an asthma “trigger”. A common cold can be an asthma trigger; so can things in the environment including dust, chemicals, smoke, and pet dander. When one of these triggers cause an Asthma “attack” the following can happen:
- Airway swelling increases
- Muscles tighten around the airway
- Your body produces mucus that further clogs your airway
Read more about Asthma triggers here. (anchor link to trigger section).
Asthma can start at any age and can come back later in life. Untreated Asthma can cause irreversible damage to the lungs.
While Asthma can be serious and even life-threatening; and while there is no cure, we can help you manage it and live a normal, healthy life.
Asthma Risk Factors
Talk to us if you have any of these risk factors so we can work with you to manage your risk for Asthma:
- Family History – having a parent with Asthma makes you 3–6 times more likely to develop it
- Viral Respiratory Infections during infancy and childhood
- Respiratory and Skin Allergies
- Occupational exposure to certain dusts, chemicals, fumes, vapors, and molds
- Smoking/Secondhand Smoke– smokers or those whose mothers smoked during pregnancy or were exposed to secondhand smoke
- A history of childhood respiratory infection
- Air pollution – ozone, which is the main component in smog, puts those who grew up or live in urban areas at a higher risk
- Obesity – children and adults who are overweight or obese are at a greater risk. The reasons are unclear, but experts cite low-grade inflammation in the body that comes with extra weight. Asthma in obese patients is harder to control than patients in a healthy weight range.
Talk to us if you experience any of these symptoms of undiagnosed or poorly controlled Asthma:
- Tightness in the chest
- Shortness of breath
- Coughing and wheezing
Your Asthma Treatment Plan
Because everyone’s Asthma is different, your doctor will create a personalized Treatment Plan that includes lifestyle suggestions, medicines, and specific steps to take when you experience various symptoms.
Peak Flow Meters
As part of your Treatment Plan, your doctor may prescribe a Peak Flow Meter—an inexpensive, portable, hand-held device that measures the amount of air you can push out of your lungs. Asthma can change gradually, and peak flow readings help your doctor make decisions about treatment and adjust your medicines to help you manage your symptoms. Another reason peak flow readings are important is that they can show changes in your Asthma before you feel them, alerting you that your symptoms are changing so you can consult your doctor or follow the appropriate steps on your Treatment Plan.
Depending on your diagnosis, your doctor will prescribe one or more of the following medicines:
Bronchodilators are inhaled directly into the lungs and relax the muscles around the airways, helping them to stay more open so you can breathe easier. There are two types:
- Short-acting – work quickly after you take them so you feel relief of your symptoms faster
- Long-acting – have effects that last a long time and should only be taken in combination with an anti-inflammatory.
These medicines reduce the swelling and mucus production inside your airways. can be taken as a pill or inhaled using an inhaler or nebulizer. Corticosteroids have serious side effects and are usually only used to help calm severe symptoms. It’s important to rinse your mouth out with water immediately after using them to prevent thrush, a yeast infection in your throat. Your PAR doctor or clinician will tell you more.
Depending on your symptoms, bronchodilators and corticosteroids can be combined into a single inhaler solution to make your treatment easier.
Biologics (Biologic Therapy)
Xolair, Fansera, and Nucala are examples of cutting-edge medicines called “biologics”, injectable prescription medications that target key cells in your body responsible for making your airways swell. Biologic therapy can reduce the number of asthma attacks and flare-ups and reduce the need for anti-inflammatory Corticosteroids/Steroids. These new medications injected at our officer every 2 – 6 weeks, offer new hope for patients with severe asthma and for asthma that responds poorly or not at all to inhaler treatments. Biologics are injected at our office every 2 – 6 weeks. Each biologic medicine acts differently and your doctor will let you know which one might be right for you.
Some Asthma flare-ups (attacks) can be caused by bacterial or viral infections, so your doctor may give you a prescription for an antibiotic or anti-viral to fill if you know you have an infection coming on. It’s critically important to take these drugs exactly as prescribed and to take all of them. If you don’t, the infection can come back stronger and harder to treat.
Asthma puts you at greater risk for serious complications from flu and pneumonia, so you should be immunized each year. The pneumonia vaccine is important to get at least once, and your doctor may recommend a booster shot.
The doctors at PAR are lung specialists and specially-trained to diagnose your Asthma and help you manage it so you can live an active, healthy, symptom-free life.
There are many different kinds of Asthma triggers, from medical conditions to environmental conditions, even thunderstorms! Avoiding or reducing your exposure when you can help you avoid Asthma flare-ups and attacks. Here are some of the most common:
- Respiratory infections (colds, flu, and sinus infections)
- Pregnancy hormones
- Acid Reflux
Medicines & Alternative Therapies
It’s important to discuss any over-the-counter or prescription medicines you take with your doctor, including alternative therapies or herbal remedies. Examples include:
- Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs
Common food allergies like peanuts and shellfish can also serve as triggers for your Asthma, so be sure to tell your doctor when you begin treatment.
All kinds of smoke affect breathing and can trigger an Asthma flare-up or attack including:
- Cigarette, cigar, or pipe smoke, including secondhand smoke
- Wood-burning fireplaces and campfires
- Burning leaves
If you smoke, you should make a plan to quit. If you live with someone who does, discuss ways to limit your exposure. Visit the American Lung Association here to learn more.
With increased pollen in the air, Spring and Fall can be particularly tough on people with Asthma. Extreme hot and cold can also trigger Asthma symptoms. Always check the pollen count and air quality index in your area before leaving home. Environmental triggers include:
- Cold/windy/stormy weather
- Sudden/extreme temperature changes
- High humidity
- Weeds, trees, and grass
- Air pollution, smog, vehicle exhaust, and fumes