Asthma is a medical condition of inflammation in the airways where the lung swells, producing extra mucus and becomes narrow, causing difficulty in breathing. It may also cause coughing, wheezing, and shortness of breath.
Asthma cannot be cured entirely; instead, it can be prevented by specific preventive measures. America is one of the most affected countries with asthma. It is the most common and costly disease in this country.
The Centers for Disease and Prevention(CDC) reports that around 27 million Americans have asthma. It is considered as one of the most common chronic diseases in America, and you will find one child suffering from asthma out of every 12 children.
Asthma has affected 7.7% of adults and 8.4 % of children in America and has been increasing since the 1980s, irrespective of age, sex, and racial groups. Asthma had been affecting severely since 2015; in this year, 47.5% of children aged 18 and young had reported the attacks to asthma.
Asthma is the third-ranking cause of hospitalization among children younger than 15 years. In the year between 2008 to 2013, more than $81.9 billion was contributed through the treatment of asthma on the cost of school and working days and including medical expenses.
Women are likely to die because of asthma as compared to men. 9.8 % of women aged 18 years and above have asthma as compared to 5.4% of men. But boys are at higher risk of developing asthma as compared to girls and adults are more likely to develop asthma than children.
Asthma In Children
About 6 million children in the United States have asthma and the majority of them are experiencing the initial symptoms of asthma by the age of 5. Diagnosing asthma in children is difficult as some of the tests are not for children of age younger than 6 years.
Childhood illnesses such as head and chest pain due to cold inflame the tissues in the airways. The airways are also very small due to their size that creates more difficulty in the case of children.
Children suffering from asthma experience the following symptoms:-
- Difficulty in eating or sucking
- Nagging cough
- Panting while doing some activity
- Coughing, especially at night
- Labored breathing
- Breathing frequently resulting in pulling the skin around their ribs
- Frequent colds settled into the chest
- Wheezing, squealing sound, especially when exhaling
- Feeling winded after performing physical activity
To understand what actually happens in asthma, it is important to know the breathing process. The air you intake goes through your nose and down into your airways, entering into your lungs. The airways further divide small air passages that help deliver the oxygen into your bloodstream.
In the case of asthma, the airways have linings that get swelled and the muscle around them tightens up, narrowing the air passage. The tightness and the extra mucus formed due to asthma resists the efficiency of passing the amount of air to the bloodstream. These conditions cause difficulty in breathing, causing an asthma attack resulting in coughing and tightness in the chest that is typical of asthma.
Asthma Symptoms: How would I Get To Know?
Here is a list of general symptoms of asthma to help you recognize if you have asthma:-
- Coughing, especially during the night, laughing, or while doing exercise
- Wheezing, a whistling sound produced while breathing
- Tightness in the chest
- Short breathing
The symptoms might change with the type of asthma that may determine what you might be suffering from. Everyone doesn’t need to experience the symptoms, but if you experience any one of them and feel that you may have asthma, immediately consult your doctor.
What Are The Causes Of Asthma?
Asthma causes do not depend on a single factor, and it involves multiple conditions that include:-
- Genetics: Asthma is a genetic disease that might get inherited from the parents. People whose parents have asthma are at higher risk of developing the disease.
- Infection history: People having a viral infection history during childhood are at higher risk of developing such chronic disease.
- Hygiene hypothesis: It is a time period in which the babies aren’t exposed to certain infections during the early months and years, resulting in a weak immune system. Hence, their immune system doesn’t become strong enough to fight other conditions, such as asthma.
- Frequent exposure to the allergen: Getting affected by possible allergens and irritants frequently may increase the risk of developing asthma.
Conditions That Triggers Asthma
Certain medical conditions and environment may also enhance the symptoms of asthma that includes:-
- Illness: Respiratory infections, such as flu and pneumonia, can trigger asthma attacks.
- Physical activity: People who have asthma may feel difficulty in breathing while performing physical exercises.
- Irritants present in the air: Some people having asthma are sensitive to irritants, such as chemical fumes, strong odors, and smoke.
- Allergens: Some types of allergens, such as animal dander, dust mites, and pollen, can also trigger the symptoms of asthma.
- Severe weather conditions: Environmental conditions, such as very high humidity or low temperature, may enhance the symptoms of asthma.
- Emotions: Certain emotions may also trigger the attack of asthma that includes shouting, laughing, and crying.
What Are Asthma Types?
One of the most common types of asthma is bronchial asthma that affects the bronchi in the lungs. There are other forms of asthma, such as childhood asthma and adult-onset asthma. Note that the symptoms of adult-onset don’t get noticed until at least age 20.
Below is a list of other types of asthma, such as:-
Allergic asthma( extrinsic asthma )
- Pet dander occurs from animals like cats and dogs
Some types of asthma, such as allergic asthma and seasonal allergies, occur seasonally because it often gets transferred through hand-in-hand.
Nonallergic asthma( Intrinsic asthma )
Irritants present in the air but are not linked with allergies, triggers this type of asthma. These include:-
- Cigarette smoke or burning wood
- Cold air
- Air pollution
- Viral illness
- Air fresheners
- Household cleaning products
Asthma that is caused due to certain factors that is a part of your day to day profession is called occupational asthma. Certain factors include:-
- Gases and fumes
- Industrial chemicals
- Animal proteins
- Rubber latex
Such types of irritants are mostly found in a wide range of industries, including farming, textiles, woodworking, and manufacturing.
Exercise-induced bronchoconstriction(EIB) generally affects people at the starting of exercise and up to 10 to 15 minutes after performing physical exercise. This condition was known as exercise-induced asthma (EIA).
It has been noticed that up to 90% of the people who have asthma also experience EIB, but not every person suffering from EIB will definitely have other types of asthma.
In this type of asthma, the symptoms generally get worse during the night. Specific triggers that enhance the symptoms of asthma at night include heartburn, pet dander, and dust mites. The body’s natural sleep cycle can also trigger nocturnal asthma.
Cough-variant asthma(CVA) symptoms don’t include classic asthma symptoms of wheezing and shortness of breath. But it can result in dry cough and full-blown asthma flares with symptoms, such as chest tightness, wheezing, night cough causing fatigue, difficulty in exercising, prolonged illness and infections or breathing problems.
Asthma cannot be diagnosed with a single test or exam. Instead, the doctor will ask the patient to undergo a few medical examinations to confirm the symptoms of asthma that includes:-
- Medical history: The doctor will ask you about your family medical conditions because asthma is a chronic genetic disease that means if your family member has asthma, you are at a high risk of developing asthma too.
- Physical examination: Your doctor will try to know your breathing conditions through a stethoscope. To confirm the symptoms, the doctor may also perform tests, such as skin tests-allergic reactions, like hives or eczema. Allergies enhance the risk of asthma.
- Breathing test: Breathing tests, such as pulmonary function tests(PFTs) used to measure airflow into and out of the lungs. One of the most common tests, spirometry in which the person has to blow air into the measuring device that will measure the speed of the air.
The breathing tests are not for children younger than 6 years, and so it becomes difficult to get the result in such cases. For adults, the doctor may prescribe medicines according to the symptoms and test results.
Always follow the directions of taking medicines as prescribed by the doctor.
Preventive Measures For Asthma
Researchers do not know the exact cause of asthma yet. Therefore, it becomes more difficult and challenging to know the preventive measures of asthma. But you can help yourself through the following strategies:-
- Avoid triggers: Always keep clear of chemicals, smells, or products, causing the breathing problem ever in your life.
- Do not get exposed to allergens: Once you get to know about the things that trigger your asthma symptoms, stop getting in touch with those allergens immediately.
- Allergen immunotherapy: It is a type of treatment that inflames your immune system through routine shots and diet, which makes your immune system stronger.
- Medication: The doctor may provide you with medications that can help you in preventing you from asthma.
Apart from medicines, certain steps and habits are important to living healthy even if you have asthma and reduce asthma attacks, such as:-
- Healthy diet: Consuming a healthy and balanced diet can improve your overall health because how the person is built depends on what he intakes. Researchers have found that processed food can cut down on the risk of an asthma attack.
- Healthy weight: Weight plays a vital role in asthma patients, as asthma is directly proportional to the overweight of an individual. Losing weight is considered healthy for the heart, lungs, and joints.
- Quit smoking: Cigarette smoking is injurious to health and triggers asthma attacks. Smoking cigarettes can also put you at a high risk of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease(COPD).
- Regular exercise: Please note that sudden physical activity triggers asthma symptoms, but regular exercise, such as aerobic activity, can strengthen your lung and may reduce the risk of breathing problems.
- Managing stress: Stress may trigger asthma symptoms; it can make a situation of stopping the asthma attack more difficult. Therefore, you need to control your stress and anxiety.
Foods rich in nutrients reduce asthma symptoms, but some food items can trigger asthma symptoms, therefore be careful while maintaining a healthy diet.
Factors That Increase The Risk of Asthma
The factors that enhance asthma symptoms are:-
- Race: Reports say that African-Americans and Puerto Ricans are more likely to develop asthma.
- Sex: Boys are more likely to get diagnosed for asthma as compared to girls, but when we talk about adults, women are more frequent to an asthma condition as compared to men.
- Genetics: Asthma is a chronic genetic disease that you might inherit from your parents. People whose parents have asthma are at more risk of having asthma.
- Medical history: People suffering and diagnosed with medical conditions, such as eczema and allergies, also have a risk of developing asthma. Therefore, your doctor may get an idea about the chances of developing asthma through your medical record.
- Age: Asthma generally develops in adulthood, but most of the diagnosis occurs at the time of childhood.
- Environment: People living in an area where allergens pollute the environment can also increase the risk of developing asthma.
- Weight: People who are overweight generally face difficulty breathing, and when such people have asthma, they find it more difficult to breathe. Therefore, if a person has asthma, he should maintain its weight.
Asthma In Pregnancy
Asthma has now affected 8% of women in their childbearing years, proving that it has become one of the most common diseases that pregnant women can experience. There is no definite way to know how asthma affects pregnant women.
In some cases, the mother doesn’t experience a change, but in others, pregnancy may make their asthma better or even worse. Even if the symptoms get worse, they mostly happen in the second and third trimesters.
Some women expecting a baby may experience the onset of asthma. In such cases, women expecting a baby should work closely with your doctor to reduce the risk of her and the growing fetus. The dose of the medicines may change with time and the medical conditions that will be determined by the doctor.
It is essential to treat asthma in especially with women who are expecting a baby because untreated asthma may lead to complications, such as:-
- Severe morning sickness
- Preterm labor
- Pregnancy-induced high blood pressure
If you are expecting a baby, you need to take care of yourself as it is essential for the baby to get enough oxygen. In case you have asthma, too, learn and understand the complications associated with these situations.