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What is Asthma?
Asthma is a chronic inflammatory disease of the airways of the lungs. It is typically characterized by symptoms like wheezing, coughing, difficulty in breathing, chest tightness. Depending on the person it can occur several times in a day or few times in a week.
When we breathe, air reaches your lungs via the airways. There are lots of air passages in the lungs that deliver oxygen to the lungs. When the lining of these airways swell and muscles around them tighten which narrows the pathway in the lungs. Eventually, mucus gets filled further reducing the pathway for the air flow. This condition results in obstruction in breathing, continuous coughing, chest tightness termed this Disease.
Symptoms of Asthma:
The intensity of symptoms may vary from person to person. Typical symptoms include:
- Sudden coughing during exercise, night or when laughing
- Wheezing sound while breathing
- Chest tightness
- Shortness of breath
Causes of Asthma:
Asthma can be triggered by both genetic and environmental factors. These factors are as follows:
- 1. Genetic factors: if any parent or grandparent has asthma then, you are also to have it.
- People with low immunity in viral infections: If you used to have a continuous cold and cough or are more prone to viral infections, then you are more likely to develop asthma.
- Air pollution: People living in urban and metro cities or working in industrial areas and who are exposed to air pollution air are more likely to develop asthma.
- Exposure to allergens and irritants: People who are exposed to allergens and irritants develop the risk of asthma.
- Hygiene Hypothesis: This hypothesis explains that those babies who have not been exposed to microbes in their early childhood have a tendency to develop asthma in their adulthood. Those working with farms or living with pets have reduced chances to develop asthma.
- Medical Conditions: Those whom allergic rhinitis, hay fever, and atopic eczema tend to develop asthma more than those who don’t have.
- Exacerbation: Some people develop a sudden attack of asthma triggered by several factors like dust, mould, cockroach allergens, cat and dog hair etc.
Treatment and medication options:
There is 4 mode of treatment available:
- Breathing exercises
- Rescue or fast-acting drugs
- Long term Medications
- Home remedies
- Identifying asthma triggers
A doctor may take up one or a combination of two or many depending upon the individual.
Let's discuss each treatment option in detail:
- Breathing Exercises: There are certain exercises which help in more air intake inside the lungs.
- Rescue or fast-acting drugs: These are the drugs which are to be used in an asthma attack. They are:
- Inhalers and nebulizers: They are to be inhaled deep into the lungs for relief.
- Bronchodilators: They relax the tightened muscles in your lung
- Anti-inflammatories: They correct the inflammation of your lungs
- Long term medications: They are to be taken to prevent symptoms. They include various drugs like corticosteroids, montelukast, salmeterol, mast cell stabilizers.
The choice of the drug depends on the type of asthma and the patient profile.
- Home remedies: Coffee, caffeinated tea, essential oils like basil oils, eucalyptus oil, and lavender oil, mustard oil provide relief in the asthma symptoms. Keep essential oils in a room for slow inhalation or massage your chest with warm mustard oil to get relief.
Diagnosis of Asthma:
Diagnosis of asthma is suspected when there are regular signs and symptoms of wheezing, whistling sound in breathing, coughing, and difficulty in breathing. If these signs worsen during exercise, viral infection attack, change of season, allergens, air pollution etc then Spirometry test is performed for diagnosis of asthma.
Triggers of Asthma:
- Respiratory illness like flu, pneumonia.
- Excessive exercise
- Irritants and pollutants in the air like chemical fumes, strong odours, smoke.
- Allergens like dust mites, pollen grains, animal dander
- Change in season
- Extreme weather condition like high humidity, low temperature
- Sudden emotions like laughing, shouting, anger, crying
Q1. Is asthma, an allergy?
Ans. Often allergies and asthma occur together. They often occur hand in hand. The same substance like Pollen grains, dust mites, an animal danger that can cause allergic reactions, can cause an attack. If precaution is not taken or if you have frequent episodes of allergy can convert into asthma. Such type of asthma is called as Allergy induced Asthma or Allergic Asthma.
Q2. Do milk products make asthma?
Ans. Milk and dairy products don’t cause asthma. This is true even if you have a dairy allergy. If you are asthmatic but not dairy allergic, then also you can take dairy products. If you have a dairy allergy, then symptoms that got triggered after taking dairy products are similar to asthma. This is a misconception that milk triggers mucus accumulation in airways causing asthma.
Q3. When I exercise, my asthma symptoms get worsened. Should I stop doing exercise?
Ans. Exercise can cause asthma only if your asthma is not under good control. You should not avoid exercise if you have asthma. If your asthma is under good control then you should definitely exercise to keep your lungs and body in good shape. You should do exercise to strengthen your breathing muscle and keep your body weight in check. Exercise also makes your lungs strong and boosts your immune system.
Q4. Can allergy medicines help in my asthma?
Ans. Allergy medicines or antihistamines block the release of a chemical called Histamine. If you have allergy-induced asthma then definitely you should take an antihistamine before you go near to pets, flowers etc.
They help in reducing allergy symptoms of eyes and nose but they have little effect on asthmatic symptoms. Histamine is only one of the components that can narrow the bronchial tubes. Antihistamines do not work on other chemicals. Moreover, antihistamines take at least one hour after the intake and work best until 4-5 hours.
Q4. I am pregnant, should I take medicines?
Ans. Yes, it is absolutely safe to take medications in pregnancy. It is important to keep asthma under control during pregnancy. Uncontrolled asthma can cause pre-eclampsia, high blood pressure, low baby birth weight, premature birth.