There are few things people take for granted as much as breathing. It’s such an automatic act that unless someone is consciously aware of it, it goes unnoticed… Until suddenly, you can’t do it anymore, that is.
What does it mean to have an asthma attack? What are the risk factors? How can you learn to recognize an attack is on its way?
What is Asthma?
Asthma is a chronic condition that causes a person’s airways to become inflamed. As a result, they become narrowed, making it difficult for a person to get air to their lungs. They are typically caused by some type of allergen in the air; although the triggers are unknown for some patients. While some people develop it as children, it could start at any age.
There is no cure for asthma and it can be life-threatening. However, if you learn how to manage it, you can lead a relatively normal life.
Types of Asthma
There are different classifications of asthma. Some people only experience mild intermittent asthma. This means that symptoms occur sparingly.
There’s mild persistent asthma, which can occur as often as once or twice a week.
Moderate persistent asthma occurs about once a day, while severe persistent asthma can occur more than once a day, with symptoms worsening at night.
Symptoms of an Asthma Emergency
The signs of an asthma attack are impossible to ignore. While they may range from mild to severe, they include:
- Shortness of breath
- Chest tightening
Some people experience symptoms on a daily basis, while others experience them seasonally.
Asthma Risk Factors
There are several risk factors that can contribute to a person suffering from an asthma attack:
- Environmental factors: This includes poor air quality due to pollution, exposure to cigarette smoke, pet dander, pollen, ragweed, substantial amounts of dust, cold weather, or being exposed to irritants on a regular basis while at work.
- Medical conditions. People who suffer from allergies experience infections of the respiratory tract, and people who are obese are more prone to obstructed airways.
- Family history. If your parents (or a parent) suffers from asthma attacks, there’s a higher likelihood that you will do so as well.
Treatment for Asthma
Treatment for asthma includes medications and inhalers. It’s crucial to keep the inhaler with you at all times, since they open airways and administer medication at the same time.
Your doctor will also ask detailed questions to help you recognize triggers and to find ways to avoid them as much as possible. If your asthma attacks change, your doctor may modify medication doses accordingly.
What to Expect at the ER
You will be asked a lot of questions about your asthma attacks. Make a list of symptoms you’ve experienced, how often you experience them, and any triggers you may have noticed. It’s also a good idea to record time of day when attacks typically occur, as well as medications you’re currently taking. All of this information will help your doctor narrow down triggers and what type of asthma you’re suffering from.
Asthma Attack Prevention
There are several ways to lower the risk of getting an asthma attack.
- Avoid triggers
- Change the air filters in your air conditioner once a month
- If you live in a cold climate, wear a face mask when going outside in the winter
- If you live in a humid climate, install a dehumidifier in your home
- If you have any pets, get them groomed regularly
- When cleaning your home, pay close attention to the kitchen and bathrooms to prevent mold growth.
- Maintain a healthy weight, since being overweight can worsen symptoms
Related: Tips for Effective Asthma Control
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