Helping You Understand Asthma

A disease wherein inflammation of the airways causes airflow into and out of the lungs to become restricted is known as Asthma. If you or your child has this disease, you no doubt understand that it can be chronic. When you have asthma, your airways tend to be red and swollen and irritants such as pollen or cigarette smoke causes the inside walls of the airways to become even more swollen. The passages get narrower, and less air flows through to your lung tissue. In addition, mucus is also produced in larger than normal amounts, which clogs your airways even more, making it hard to breathe. Thus, the wheezing and inability to breathe accompany the attacks.

Common asthma symptoms are the wheezing sound made as the air squeezes through the narrowed airways, along with coughing, shortness of breath and a feeling of tightness in the chest. Symptoms can come and go with asthma, and their intensity can vary. While asthma is often connected with allergies, it can also be related to non-allergic causes, such as chemicals and other irritating substances. Exercise can also bring on asthma symptoms in some people. Individuals who are more sensitive may display asthma symptoms caused by: pet dander, dust mites, cockroach allergens, molds, or pollens. Asthma symptoms can also be triggered by respiratory infections, exercise, cold air, tobacco smoke and other pollutants, stress, food, or drug allergies.

One of the highest risk factors for asthma is having a family history of asthma, especially the allergic kind. Asthma can affect people at any age, but half of the people with asthma develop it during childhood, usually before age 10. Asthma is a very common disease and is becoming more common all the time. In the US alone, about 20 million people, 9 million of whom are children, have asthma. It affects people of all races and ethnic backgrounds.

Treatment for an asthma condition may consist of short and long term medications. In addition, long-acting brochodilators help open the airways. So too, a doctor may prescribe a combination of an anti-inflammatory and bronchodilator such as Advair. For quick relief, a short-acting bronchodilator such as Ventolin may be used or Prednisone, which acts as a stabilizer in severe attacks.

Individuals who have mild asthma may use relief medication as needed. However, those with persistent asthma should take medication on a regular basis to prevent symptoms from occurring. A severe asthma attack may require a medical evaluation. Further, hospitalization, oxygen, and intravenous medication may also be indicated.

The inability to breathe can be a frightening experience, especially for a child. While adults can carry their medications with them, it is important to note that school aged children cannot. The public school system requires that all medications remain locked in the nurse’s office. This can be a disaster waiting to happen if the nurse is not available. It is incumbent upon parents to question the validity of this mandate to ensure their child has access to the medication at any time during the school day. Anything less would be unacceptable.

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