by Kimberly Allen R.N.
Asthma is a chronic inflammatory disease involving the air passages in the lungs. It has been increasing in incidence over the past 5 years and there are now an estimated 17 million people in the US alone suffering with this chronic illness.
Asthma can result from either genetics or the environment. If a parent has asthma there’s a strong possibility a child will develop asthma. Allergies also can develop into asthma. While it is true that asthma is classified as a “chronic obstructive” disease, because the obstruction is reversible when treated, it is not among the group of obstructive diseases in COPD like emphysema. Another difference is that in asthma it’s the bronchi that are affected and in emphysema it’s the aveoli that are affected.
Though asthma is classified depending on the severity of attacks as well as diagnostic tests measuring inspiratory and expiratory volume there are 3 different “types” OF asthma.
1. Brittle asthma, this covers 2 types. Type 1 brittle asthma is characterized by wide variability in air flow even when treated with an intense medication regime. Type 2 brittle asthma is well controlled however, there are sudden and severe attacks.
2. Exercise induced asthma, is characterized by asthma attacks following exercise. It is a common diagnosis among elite athletes and is usually treated with short acting beta 2 agonists like albuterol.
3. Occupational asthma. These attacks occur or are worsened by exposure to something in the work environment. Most cases of occupational asthma are never reported however, the American Thoracic Society has suggested that “15 – 23% of new onset asthma cases in adults are work related”. Most are found in manufacturing and services.
There are also 2 types if attacks associated with asthma. An asthma attack which is characterized by shortness of breath, wheezing and a feeling of the chest tightening. The 3nd is a more serious and life threatening type known as staticus asthmaticus. The symptoms are the same except that they not only worsen but do not respond to conventional treatments. Staticus Asthmaticus is a medical emergency requiring immediate medical assistance.
Though asthma is a chronic condition it doesn’t need to be a debilitating one. Much more is known and understood about asthma today. There are many things you can do to control your asthma.
First, always remember it’s a medical condition so having a primary care physician to help you with an individualized plan is crucial. The goal of any asthma management plan should be the prevention of acute attacks while maintaining optimal respiratory function.
There are several ways to accomplish that both medically and non-medically. The single most effective “treatment” is identifying the trigger or triggers. Once you have identified the trigger(s) you need to eliminate or avoid contact with them when possible. Most trigger(s) are found in our own homes. Pets and pet dander are the most common, but dust and dust mites are nearly as common and are more difficult to avoid. Ways to manage dust and dust mites include covering your mattress with an air tight cover and covering it with a washable pad, and use polyester and dacron not feather pillows.
Instead of carpeting, use tile or hardwood flooring as carpeting is very difficult to thoroughly clean and hides many critters deep in it’s fibers. If your asthma is severe consider the possibility of using an air purifier, especially in the bedroom. Avoid areas prone to mold like basements and attics and clean areas where mold is most likely to grow, like under the sink regularly.
There are also numerous natural home treatments for asthma. Sauna’s or steam baths regularly help relieve lung congestion. i also know people that swear by honey. asthma sufferer’s I know have said that they mix 1tsp of honey in a glass of water and drink it 3 times a day and that since adding the honey to their regime they’ve rarely had an attack or needed to use their emergency inhaler.
It’s very important that if you wish to include alternative methods in your treatment plan that your Dr is aware. Hiding or omiting information from your Dr can be detrimental to your health.
Kimberly Allen is a registered nurse with an AND in nursing. She has worked in ACF, LCF and psychiatric facilities, although she spent most of her career as a home health expert. She is now a regular contributor to HealthAndFitnessTalk.com, dispensing advice and knowledge about medical issues and questions. You can reach her with any comments or questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.