Tips and Tricks to Living with Asthma

Posted on October 30 2018

Asthma is a chronic, or long term disease that inflames and narrows the airways of your lungs. Asthma can cause a variety of symptoms that can worsen at any time, making breathing difficult. Asthma may cause the linings of your airways to become swollen and the muscles around them can get tight. Sometimes, the swelling and tightness can become much worse, and that is known as an asthma attack.

An asthma attack can happen with any type of asthma, and over time, if the asthma is not properly controlled, the disease can have long term effects on your breathing; leading to permanent damage to the lining of your airways. Asthma attacks are serious and should be treated as such. That is one of the main reasons why it is crucial to work with your healthcare provider to learn how to manage your asthma.

Though asthma is not curable, it is treatable and can be managed with the right medication and proper care by your doctor.

Understanding Asthma

 

The Types of Asthma

A key element to understanding asthma is knowing that not all asthma is the same. Asthma may be different for certain people. Your doctor may identify your type of asthma based on how often you have symptoms, nighttime awakenings, how often you use your rescue inhaler, if your asthma is preventing you from doing normal activities, and how well you're breathing, based on a breathing test. 

Intermittent Asthma

If your asthma affects you twice a week or less, your asthma may be known as intermittent. You may only need your rescue inhaler up to 2 days per week. It is the mildest type of asthma, but still involves risks, so be sure to tell your doctor about your symptoms, and how to keep them under control. 

Persistent Asthma

With persistent asthma, you may experience symptoms and other limitations more often. Persistent asthma can be mild, moderate, or severe. Sometimes, your symptoms may go away on their own, but other times, uncontrolled asthma may become worse, as well as the risk of an asthma attack. Again, it is important to speak with your doctor about your symptoms and any changes you notice. Your doctor can work with you to help control your asthma symptoms & reduce your risk.

Mild Persistent Asthma

People with mild asthma may have symptoms more than twice a week, but not every day. They may be awakened 3 to 4 times a month by their asthma, or use a rescue inhaler more than 2 days a week. They typically have some minor limits to their activities, but have a normal score on breathing tests. People with mild persistent asthma may also have some risk of asthma attacks that require corticosteroids, such as prednisone. 

If you have mild asthma, your doctor may prescribe a long term controller medication, such as a low-dose inhaled corticosteroid, as well as your rescue inhaler. When your mild asthma is well controlled, you may not have any symptoms at all, but this doesn't mean that your asthma has gone away. Talk to your healthcare provider to make sure you are getting the right medicines to control your symptoms, to help avoid asthma attacks, and how to prevent an attack, or what to watch for. 

Moderate Persistent Asthma

If you have moderate asthma, you may experience symptoms every day. People with moderate asthma may be awakened once a week or more by asthma, but not nightly or may not need to use their rescue inhaler every day. Their asthma may cause some limitations to their regular activities, and breathing tests will show some limitations too. People with moderate asthma may have some risk of asthma attacks that require corticosteroids.

Severe Persistent Asthma

If you have severe asthma, you can receive help from your doctor to control it. Severe asthma affects approximately 5 to 10% of people with asthma. Uncontrolled severe asthma may include symptoms throughout the day, every day, or waking up every night due to asthma symptoms. You may need a rescue inhaler several times a day, and may have frequent asthma attacks that require oral corticosteroids - sometimes severe enough to send them to a hospital. 

Severe asthma may cause many limits to daily activities, and cause low scores on breathing tests. Some risk factors that can play a part in whether you develop different types of asthma may include: pollution, smoking, allergies, obesity, or genetics. 

If your asthma is severe and uncontrolled, your healthcare provider may recommend you to see a specialist, such as an allergist or pulmonologist. These doctors are specially trained to treat asthma and can help you find the right combination of medication and self-care to help manage your asthma.

Causes of Asthma

The main components of asthma include airway inflammation and airway constriction. Both components may affect the airways of your lungs, making it more difficult for you to breathe. You need to pay attention to how your asthma makes you feel, even if you don't have many symptoms. The more severe the inflammation and constriction become, the longer your symptoms go untreated, the worse your asthma symptoms may be and the harder they may be to control.

Since the disease is always with you, you need to monitor your asthma symptoms every day.

Some causes of your asthma, or triggers to your asthma may include:

1. Allergens: such as, cockroaches, dust mites, indoor mold, pets, and pollen and outdoor mold.

2. Irritants: such as, strong odors, sprays, smoke, tobacco, perfume, hair spray, paints, and wood-burning stoves.

3. Colds and respiratory infections

4. Food sensitivities: such as those that contain sulfites, beer, wine, shrimp, dried fruit, or processed potatoes.

5. Exercise: such as, fast paced running with no warm up or cooling down period.

6. Weather: if you are sensitive to cold temperatures, cover your nose and mouth with a scarf when outdoors on cold or windy days.

7. Stress

Keep in mind that triggers vary from person to person, so you should learn which specific ones affect you. It's important to know what triggers your asthma symptoms, so that you can help and prepare yourself should a flare up occur.

Symptoms of Asthma

  

If you have asthma, you may experience one or more of the following symptoms: 

  • Wheezing - a whistling sound heard when breathing in or out.
  • Coughing - a cough that may not go away and often occurs or worsens at night or early morning.
  • Chest Tightness - feeling as if something is squeezing or sitting on your chest.
  • Shortness of Breath - feeling as though you can't catch  your breath, or feeling as if you are breathless. 

Each person may experience different asthma symptoms. Symptoms can vary over time in both frequency and severity. You can play a very important role in managing your asthma by avoiding triggers, monitoring your symptoms, and following instructions as provided by your doctor. 

There are a few occasions where your asthma symptoms can get worse, for example: 

  • Exposure to Asthma Triggers
  • At Night
  • Pregnancy
  • Certain Medications

Asthma can sometimes be hard to live with, but it doesn't have to be. Take the Asthma Control Test to assess how well controlled your symptoms are, and bring the results with you when you talk to your healthcare provider. Talk with your doctor to learn how to best control your asthma symptoms. 

Treating Asthma

There are many treatment options available to help manage your asthma symptoms, including many types of asthma medications. Some medications reduce airway inflammation, while others relax the muscles around the airways to help relieve constriction. Some medicines are taken daily on a long term basis for as long as your doctor deems necessary, while others are taken as needed for the quick relief of sudden asthma symptoms, or during periods or worsening asthma. 

Quick Relief Medicines

Quick Relief medicines are bronchodilators. They work by relaxing the muscles around the airways of the lungs. This helps air to flow more freely through the lungs. Quick relief medicines are typically used to relieve symptoms when they occur, though, using your quick relief inhaler more than usual may be a sign that you are having trouble controlling your inflammation. It is important to track the amount of times you use your quick relief medicine, and that medicine should be carried with you at all times.

An example of quick relief medication includes: Short Acting Beta Agonists (SABA): act within minutes to relieve sudden asthma symptoms. This type of medicine is usually delivered by an inhaler. The medicine quickly relaxes the muscles surrounding your airways. If it doesn't relieve your symptoms quickly, notify your doctor immediately. 

Long Term Control Medicines

Long term asthma control medicines are taken daily, whether you have symptoms or not. Most are anti-inflammatory medicines and work by reducing inflammation in the airways of the lungs. These medicines help to prevent symptoms. Examples of different types of long term asthma control medicines include the following:

  • Anti-Inflammatory Medicines: including, inhaled corticosteroids and Leukotriene Receptor Antagonists. 
  • Immunomodulators: including, IL-5 Inhibitors and IgE Inhibitors.
  • Bronchodilators: including, Theophylline and Long Acting Muscarinic Antagonists (LAMAs)

Combination Medicines

Asthma may also be treated with more than one medication at a time. Some of these medications are delivered together in one inhaler. These combination inhalers are prescribed to be taken daily to help prevent symptoms. They include medications such as Inhaled Corticosteroids combined with Long Acting Beta Agonists (LABA)

Note: LABA's are not meant to be taken alone. People with asthma who take LABA medicines alone have an increased risk of death or hospitalization from asthma problems. They should always be prescribed in combination with a long term asthma control medicine. 

Systemic Corticosteroids

Typically, oral or injectable systemic corticosteroids - for example, prednisone - are used in short bursts to reduce inflammation and help speed recovery following an asthma attack or illness. 

Delivery Devices

Many asthma medications must be taken with a device that helps deliver the medication directly into the lungs. There are several types of devices, and your doctor will prescribe the medicine and device that they feel are best for you. Examples of delivery devices include the following: Dry Powder Inhalers, Soft Mist Inhalers, Metered Dose Inhalers, Spacers, and Nebulizers.

Here at Mountainside Medical Equipment, we offer several products and medications dedicated to those suffering from asthma, including inhalers, nebulizers, and more! Please click here to see the wide variety of asthma products that we have in stock! 

Monitoring Devices

Knowing how well you are breathing is an important part of your asthma management. Some devices used for monitoring include: peak flow metersand spirometry tests. 

Managing Asthma

There are many ways to manage your asthma symptoms. Some methods include: 

Allergy Testing: Many people with asthma have allergies that may trigger their asthma symptoms. Knowing what you're allergic to and avoiding those possible triggers may help you manage your asthma. If you have an allergy to pollen or outdoor mold, try to keep your windows closed. If possible, use air conditioning instead. Also, if possible, stay indoors with your windows closed during the late morning and afternoon hours, when pollen and mold spore counts are at the highest.  

Allergy Shots: If your doctor determines that you have one more allergies that may be affecting your asthma, they may recommend allergy shots. These are injections of small amounts of the substances to which you are allergic. Your doctor will administer these shots regularly, gradually increasing the strength of the dose, thus making your body become less sensitive to the allergens. 

Flu ShotIf you have asthma and get influenza, you may be more prone to complications, such as worsening asthma symptoms or pneumonia. To help reduce this risk, your doctor may recommend getting a flu shot, which is especially important for those with chronic conditions such as asthma to reduce serious illness. Note: those with asthma should not receive the flu vaccination in the nasal spray form. If you do happen to get sick, talk with your doctor about developing an Asthma Action Plan to follow when you start feeling sick. Get plenty of rest and drink plenty of fluids. Also, avoid contact with others who have a cold or the flu

Reduce Asthma Triggers in Your Home: Keep food and garbage in closed containers, or never leave food out, use bait or traps to eliminate cockroaches, avoid using sprays to kill roaches unless necessary. If needed, stay out of the room until the odor goes away. In order to avoid dust mites, have your house frequently dusted and vacuumed using a vacuum with a HEPA filter, encase your mattress and pillows in special dustproof covers, wash your sheets and blankets each week in hot water, keep stuffed animals and toys off the bed, wash stuffed animals and toys weekly in hot water, use a dehumidifier or air conditioner to reduce room humidity.

If indoor mold triggers your asthma, you can fix leaky faucets, pipes, and other sources of water to avoid an asthma trigger. Clean mold off surfaces with a bleach cleaner. Replace or wash moldy shower curtains. Open a window or turn on the exhaust fan when you shower, and use a dehumidifier to reduce the humidity.

If you have pets and asthma: bathe your dog or cat weekly to cut down on dander. Ask someone who doesn't have asthma to change your cat's litter box. Don't allow pets in your bedroom. Vacuum often with a HEPA filter, and add HEPA filters to central air conditioning and heating. This will also help remove dander from the air.

Don't Smoke: Cigarette smoke makes your asthma worse by irritating the airways of your lungs. Smoking may also permanently damage your airways. If you smoke and have asthma, the best thing you can do is quit. If you don't smoke, ask people not to smoke around you, inside of your house, car, or any enclosed spaces.

Learn to Manage Stress: Stress can be an asthma trigger and can play a role in asthma attacks. While you can't entirely avoid stress, you can develop ways to help manage it. Try to best avoid situations that trigger your stress. Practice relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing or meditation. Eat a healthy diet and try to get enough sleep. Manage your time effectively and delegate tasks so you aren't overloaded. Finally, seek social support whenever possible.

Take Your Asthma Medicine As Prescribed: If your doctor has prescribed medicine to take each day, it's important to take it as prescribed, even if you're not experiencing symptoms. Establish a routine that works for you, and set an alarm or reminder on your cell phone or computer calendar so you don't forget. It is also important to refill your prescription on time so you don't run out and miss a dose. To be safe, refill your medication one week before the medicine is due.

Develop an Asthma Action Plan: This is an important tool in managing your asthma, regardless of its severity. Your doctor can help customize this plan for you based on your symptoms, history, and current treatment. Once you create your plan, share it with the people you regularly come in contact with. 

Asthma and Travel: Preparation is essential to managing asthma when you're away from home. Investigate your destination to find out indoor and outdoor asthma triggers you might face while away. Keep up with the daily air quality at your destination. Bring all necessary documents with you, including a list of all of your medications, extra prescriptions for additional medicines, a copy of your Asthma Action Plan, and your insurance cards.

Carry a quick relief inhaler with you. Keep it in your backpack, purse, briefcase, or gym bag so that you always have it with you. Make sure to bring enough medication to last throughout your entire trip. Consider bringing extra medicine, or carrying prescriptions for additional medication. Most importantly, keep your medicine handy in a bag you carry all the time. Never pack your medicine in your checked bags. Lastly, make sure you have a universal adapter if you bring along a nebulizer that requires power. If the nebulizer is battery powered, make sure the battery is charged.

Are you tired of feeling held back by your asthma? You don't have to be. It can be hard to live with it, but it is not impossible. The best thing is to always seek out the care of a medical professional when it comes to asthma symptoms, medications, and treatments. Your doctor will discuss every option over with you to determine the best course of treatment.

Discover these and all of our Asthma products, including nebulizers, inhalers, and monitoring systems -  by visiting our website at www.mountainside-medical.com, or by simply calling 1-888-687-4334 to speak with one of our support specialists!

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