Asthma is a common lung condition where a patient’s airways narrow and swell when irritated, causing breathing difficulties, wheezing, and other symptoms. The severity of asthma varies from person to person – for some, it is a minor nuisance, but for others, it may greatly affect their daily lives, leading to insomnia or even asthma attacks, which can be life threatening. Although there is currently no cure, asthma can be managed through medication. Due to the unpredictable nature of asthma symptoms, it is crucial that patients remain in close contact with their doctor, so that they may adjust their treatment plan at any time.
Some patients only experience mild symptoms that occur at specific times, such as during exercise. Others, however, may suffer from frequent attacks, displaying symptoms such as shortness of breath, chest tightness, chest pain, wheezing (a common sign of asthma in children), coughing, difficulty sleeping, etc.
Symptoms such as wheezing and difficulty breathing may be exacerbated if an asthma patient contracts an upper respiratory illness, such as a cold or influenza. Under serious circumstances, patients may require the use of a ventilator at a hospital.
Certain conditions can trigger asthma and make symptoms worse. For some patients, asthma may be triggered by exercise, especially on cold days when the air is dry. For others, especially children, they may suffer from allergy-induced asthma, which is triggered by pollen, mold, animal hair/dander, etc. Some patients may have occupational asthma, which is brought about by workplace irritants such as chemical fumes, gas, or dust.
There are a wide variety of medications that can help control asthma, including medicine delivered through inhalers, pills, injections, etc. Many patients worry about becoming physically dependent on the medication, but asthma medicines are generally safe and do not cause dependence or addiction.
Asthma medications comprise two major categories: the first is quick-relief medications, which aim to quickly relieve airway inflammation, relax the airways, and alleviate symptoms such as wheezing and chest tightness during an asthma attack; the second is long-term asthma control medications, such as anti-inflammatory drugs, inhaled corticosteroids, and steroids, which help reduce airway inflammation and bronchial allergic reactions, thereby preventing asthma attacks. It is important for patients to take their medication under the direction of a doctor. In the past, some patients on long-term asthma medications chose to stop taking their medicine on their own accord after their condition improved, but this is not recommended, as it may lead to an asthma attack.
Severe asthma can be life threatening. If your asthma is worsening, or if symptoms such as difficulty breathing and wheezing are becoming more frequent or severe, and quick-relief medications such as bronchodilators are not alleviating symptoms, seek medical assistance immediately.