Asthma is chronic, which means it cannot be cured, but it can be treated and managed. It is a lung condition that causes hypersensitivity and constriction of the airways, making breathing difficult. Episodes of asthma are called either “flares” or “attacks,” and patients of our New Jersey allergist office tend to experience a multitude of uncomfortable symptoms, such as coughing, wheezing, tightness in the chest, and shortness of breath.
These unfortunate symptoms are the result of inflamed tissues causing changes in the airway, an increase in mucus that can block the remainder of one’s airway, and the tightening of muscles adjacent to the airway, or “bronchoconstriction.”
While there is no magic cure for asthma, there are several ways for the average patient to manage it, keep most of the complications at bay, and live a normal life. Here are just some of asthma experts’ tips on how to handle the dreaded disease day-to-day:
1. Check Air Quality Daily
If you have asthma, you already know that you are much more vulnerable to air pollution than the average citizen. In fact, when the air is of poor quality, there is a possibility that inhaling it may trigger an episode that is serious enough to necessitate a trip to the emergency room or an overnight admission to the hospital.
This is why keeping our clean is so important. Not only does it compromise the health of all people, but those with chronic lung diseases are especially at risk. With the dawn of climate change, air quality around the world is now worse than it ever has been. Since it has been the catalyst for sprawling wildfires, it is the primary source for the smoke, particle pollution, and ozone pollution that are serious threats to asthma sufferers.
If you have asthma, it is always best for you to check the air quality each day. This is especially true if you plan to spend an extended amount of time outside. The Environmental Protection Agency has a website called “Airnow.gov” where you can check the air quality daily. If the air quality is considered to be bad, asthmatics should stay indoors as much as they possibly can.
2. Decrease your Exposure to Allergens
Always take a look at the pollen count and the quantity of other allergens in the atmosphere before you leave the house. Going outdoors for long periods of time can allow such allergens to trigger an attack in a sensitive asthmatic. It is also best to shower and change your clothes immediately after going outside and, possibly, stay inside all together on very windy days. And, for an extra precaution, keep the windows to your home and car shut.
3. Consider Different Types of Medication
If you are already on a preventative medication, such as controllers and rescue meds, be sure that your refills are up to date, filled, and with you at all times. Take any daily medications prescribed by your doctor without missing a dose, since this is an illness where prevention is the key to keeping it under control.
Most of the time, asthma medications fall into one of two groups. Those are either long-term or for quick-relief. For example, bronchodilator inhalers relax the muscles in the airway so you can breathe easier within minutes during a flare, and they fall in the latter category. Of course, if you have an attack while exercising, you will need to rest for five to fifteen minutes before you take such a medication.
Conversely, long-term medicines are all about control over the duration. Inhaled corticosteroids, usually the go-to medication for most children and adults, control and prevent the advent of asthma attacks. If you take them each day, they should control the disease by reducing inflammation. Masks and other devices can be used on children that are unable to inhale medication, or they may use a nebulizer, which is a medicinal mist-producing machine.
4. Visit your Physician Twice a Year
When you see your asthma specialist, he or she will probably ask you a few routine questions. He or she will want to know if you cough or wheeze more than twice a week, or whether you have stopped exercising because of asthma, or whether you wake up more than twice a month coughing. He or she will probably be interested in what you are doing for physical activities and what types of environments you work and live in. It is important to keep your physician informed of your current condition at all times.
5. Develop a Written Action Plan
Controlling asthma can be much easier for you if you and your specialist sit down and compose a comprehensive asthma management plan. This will include knowing exactly how and when to administer your medications, identifying and avoiding your particular asthma triggers, and recognizing the specific signs that your body gives you prior to an episode. For instance, you may experience a dry cough or a runny nose prior to an attack, and knowing this will give you enough time to treat the flare-up and stop it before it grows into full-blown attack.
Having a plan is important, whether you are a parent of an afflicted child or an adult stricken with asthma. Working with your specialist is the best way to learn what methods may be best for you to use in an emergency. A good plan list should also include specific instructions for what to do when symptoms worsen and when it is time to seek professional care in the form of an ambulance being called or a hospital visit.
6. Stop Smoking and Avoid Secondhand Smoke
It should go without saying that an asthmatic would do his or herself a lot of good by abstaining from smoking (cigarettes or cannabis) or vaping. They also need to understand that is pertinent to stay away from smoky environments, like clubs and bars, where such behavior is permitted. And, if someone that lives with an asthmatic smokes, it is best that he or she do so outside and away from the patient.
7. Avoid Triggers in the Home and Environment
Besides smoke, it should be known that pet dander, and pests, such as mice, mites, fleas, and cockroaches, also trigger asthma attacks, as does particulate matter and ground-level ozone. In addition, household chemicals such as cleaning supplies, paint, and aerosol sprays can bring on asthmatic symptoms. Try, instead, to use non-toxic and odor free household products.
In fact, an asthmatic trigger is any condition, activity, or thing that can cause sudden flares or make preexisting asthma symptoms worse. Even otherwise benign items like lotions, hairsprays, perfumes, scented candles, fireplaces, and woodburning stoves should be avoided, if possible.
Dust, of course, is certainly an asthma irritant, and it can easily be reduced in the home by changing furnace and air conditioner filters often and using HEPA filters when they’re available. You should also dust daily with a damp cloth and vacuum as often as you can. Also, ventilate the basement, kitchen, and bathroom to eliminate dampness and prevent the growth of mold and bacteria.
At Becker ENT and Allergy, we work with children and adults that suffer from asthma. We can assist you with dealing with your asthma, and we also want to assure you so you won’t have to worry in the event of an asthma attack. Our specialists will be glad to help you learn more about the disease and the best ways to treat it, so you can enjoy life as it was meant to be lived. Give our friendly staff a call at (215) 709-6493, or drop us a message here, for an appointment.