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It is often said that the key to successful asthma treatment lies in the identification of its triggers and symptoms. It is important to know as much as possible about this chronic respiratory condition so that you can take appropriate action when required. The inflammatory disorder causes the airways to narrow and swell leading to difficulty in breathing and chest tightness. However, all asthma patients do not have the same set of symptoms. Apart from the classical signs of asthma, patients may also suffer from many other physiological changes which are difficult to track at times. But, for successful management, one should learn to identify the pattern of occurrence and chalk out a proper rating system. Apart from this, one should also be able to spot the triggering agents in order to avoid them.
Asthma – An Overview:
Asthma is defined as a chronic inflammatory condition of the lungs that may affect people of all age-groups. There is no complete cure for the condition and treatment is mainly aimed at correcting the symptoms and avoiding the triggering agents.
Symptoms: The symptoms of asthma can be broadly segregated under three sub-heads namely, classic, emergency and additional symptoms.
• Shortness of breath that worsens with activity or exercise.
• Cough – with or without sputum.
• Chest tightness experienced as something squeezing or sitting on your chest.
• Wheezing – characterized by a squeaky sound that occurs while breathing. Wheezing may come in episodes and may worsen during activity and cold weather. They may also exacerbate early in the morning or at night.
• Extreme difficulty in breathing.
• Sharp – rapid pulses.
• Bluish coloration of the lips and face.
• Feelings of anxiety or panic
• Difficulty talking and inability to catch your breath
• Temporary stoppage of breathing
• Abnormal pattern of breathing associated with severe wheezing.
• Coughing that won’t stop
• Nasal flaring and chest pain
Factors that trigger asthma:
Cigarette Smoke: Smoking of any form – direct or passive - places a person at a greater risk for developing asthma. If you are pregnant, it is advisable to avoid smoking as this increases the likelihood of your baby developing the condition.
Dust and Mites: If you are allergic to dust mites, you should take proper measures to limit exposure. This is because they can trigger allergic reactions like asthma. Although, it is impossible to get rid of all the mites, you can probably cut down the number by taking certain precautionary measures. This involves reducing the dampness in your homes, preventing the accumulation of dust, frequently washing pillows, blankets and stuffed toys and using high efficiency vacuum cleaners.
Pets: Another major source of allergen that can trigger asthma are household pets, cats and rodents. An ideal way to control animal allergens is by preventing their entry inside the living space and thoroughly cleaning household furniture, carpets and walls at periodic intervals.
Pollens: A major form of airborne allergen – pollens can acts as a triggering factor during certain specific times of the year. Hence, it is seen that in some people, asthma gets worse during the pollen seasons (i.e. during the spring and early summer seasons). To reduce exposure to them, remain indoors during these seasons as much as possible and avoid any form of direct contact with these allergens. Also, make it a point to shower every time you have any kind of high exposure to pollens.
Occupational asthma: If you have asthma, it is advisable to refrain from working in any type of “high risk” industry that involves dust, grains or animals. For different people, the triggering agent may be different. Hence, always consult a doctor to help you identify the exact cause of the condition.
Infections: Asthma can also be triggered by certain respiratory infections and common cold. When asthma is caused by such health conditions, prompt treatment should be taken to limit the duration of illness and prevent further attacks.
Physical Exercise: A particular form of asthma, termed as exercise-induced asthma usually occurs after a few minutes of exercise in certain people. This is particularly noticeable in cold weather conditions and should be avoided by using appropriate medications a few minutes before exercising.
Source: Cleveland Clinic, Medline Plus, National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, EPA, Asthma Foundation South Australia
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