Asthma Asthmatic Tips

Asthma is a condition that causes airways in the lungs to constrict and become inflamed. People with asthma experience tightening of the bronchial walls and blockage from the production of excess mucus. The causes of asthma are still not fully understood, and it appears that a combination of environmental and genetic factors contribute to this condition.

Asthma triggers vary from person to person. Some common asthma triggers include:

  • airborne allergens including animal dander, cockroaches, dust mites, mold and pollen
  • allergic reactions to certain foods including peanuts and shellfish
  • cold air
  • colds and other respiratory infections
  • gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
  • menstrual cycle
  • physical exertion
  • pollutants and irritants such as smoke
  • some medications
  • stress and other intense emotions.

Symptoms of Asthma

Asthma symptoms are different for each person. Some people have only very mild and infrequent wheezing, or occasional asthma attacks. Others may have difficulty at night or during exercise. Those with severe asthma may experience chronic coughing or wheezing and frequent attacks. Some classic symptoms of asthma include:

  • chest pain or tightness
  • coughing or wheezing that gets worse with a cold or other respiratory infection
  • difficulty sleeping due to coughing, shortness of breath or wheezing
  • shortness of breath
  • whistling or wheezing sound on exhalation.

Treating Symptoms and Asthma Attacks

Although a cure has not yet been discovered for asthma, with treatment, symptoms can be kept under control. For most people, asthma changes over time, so working closely with a doctor is helpful for long-term asthma management.

Asthma treatment has improved dramatically in recent years, and it is truly possible to live a normal life with asthma. Many people with asthma are accomplished athletes, and some have even gone on to win Olympic gold medals. Here are a few ways your doctor can help you control your asthma:

  • Long Term Control Medications: These medicines are taken daily in most cases, and include inhaled corticosteroids, long-acting beta-2 agonists, leukotriene modifiers, Tilade and Theophylline.
  • Quick-Relief Medications: These medications are used for fast relief during an asthma attack, and are also referred to as rescue medications. Sometimes rescue medication is prescribed for use before exercise to prevent attacks. Quick relief medications include Atrovent, oral and IV corticosteroids and short-acting beta-2 agonists.
  • Allergy Treatments: For allergy-induced asthma, allergy shots and anti-IgE monoclonal antibodies may be prescribed.

Healthy Home Asthma Recommendations

Most of us spend many hours of the day at home, especially during the colder months of the year. The air quality in your home can have a strong affect on your asthma. Since colds and flu can trigger asthma attacks, health care professionals recommend cleaning surfaces to keep germs to a minimum. In addition, it is helpful to clean away common allergens that can bring on asthma attacks.

Keeping your home free of asthma triggers such as cockroaches, dust mites, germs, pet dander and mold seems like it should be a simple matter. Unfortunately, many common household cleaners contain strong chemicals that are asthma triggers themselves. Even the act of cleaning can be problematic when it stirs up dirt and dust into the air.

Volatile organic compounds (VOC’s) are chemical irritants found in many cleaning products, and have been found to cause asthma attacks. One particularly irritating chemical, dichlorobenzene, is often found in air fresheners and toilet bowl block cleaners. Even chlorine bleach can cause inflammation of the airways in the lungs.

When cleaning your house, experts recommend choosing products without harsh scents. It is safest to choose natural products for cleaning that do not have hazard warnings on their labels. Here are a few products that can help you clean your house and breathe freely:

  • baking soda
  • lemon juice
  • plain soap (not detergent)
  • salt
  • water
  • vinegar.

Healthy Lifestyle Tips for Asthmatics

If you are dealing with asthma, here are some asthma recommendations to help you cope in a positive way and get back to enjoying your life:

  • Consider joining a support group. Getting to know others who are going through the same thing will help you feel less alone and find new strategies for feeling better.
  • Consult your doctor and begin a regular exercise program to strengthen your heart and lungs.
  • Cover your face on cold days.
  • Keep the humidity in your home low and your indoor air clean. Try hard floors instead of carpeting, and dust-proof covers for your mattress and pillows.
  • If cleaning aggravates your asthma, try wearing a mask or getting a family member to help with this job.
  • Try stress management techniques such as guided imagery, meditation and yoga. Since stress often triggers asthma attacks, keeping it to a minimum will improve both your physical and emotional well being.
  • Maintain a healthy weight.
  • Work with your doctor to keep heartburn and GERD under control.

Resources

Berger, W. E. M.D., M.B.A. (2009). Ten things you should know before using household cleaning chemicals. Retrieved March 13, 2009, from The Housekeeping Channel LLC Web site: http://www.housekeepingchannel.com/a_160-Ten_Things_You_Should__Know_Before_Using_Household_Cleaning_Chemicals.

MacNaughton, K. R.N. (2008). Tips and advice for asthma magagement. Retrieved March 13, 2009, from the About.com Web site: http://asthma.about.com/od/livingwithasthma/a/livingasthmahub.htm.

Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research (2009). Asthma. Retrieved March 13, 2009, from the Mayoclinic.com Web site: http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/asthma/DS00021.

Meneghetti, A. M.D. (2009). Asthma friendly cleaning products. Retrieved March 13, 2009, from The Housekeeping Channel LLC Web site: http://www.housekeepingchannel.com/a_567-Asthma_Friendly_Cleaning_Products.