Things You Should Know About Asthma

Things You Should Know About Asthma

Having trouble breathing can often be put down to an asthma flare-up. Still, feeling out of breath can cause anxiety. Here’s how to know when to seek outside help.

Experiencing shortness of breath is always a little unsettling. After all, breathing is what keeps us alive.

First, it’s important to know that anyone can experience difficulty in their breathing. In fact, it can be quite common to feel out of breath at times. An especially hot and humid day could lead to breathing difficulties for people with allergies as the moisture in the air traps allergens and pollutants.

Feeling out of breath is also common with exercise; depending on your fitness level, you can breathe more heavily while climbing stairs or doing strenuous exercise. Our bodies need time to adjust to the new intensity when we push ourselves more than usual. Whether you’re getting back into sports after a period out of the game or you’re a seasoned runner trying to pick up the pace, your muscles, including breathing muscles like your diaphragm, need to build up endurance.

Asthma flare-ups: know your triggers

Yet, shortness of breath is a common symptom of asthma and may be a signal of a flare-up. Often, with asthma, the breathlessness does not come on its own but might be accompanied by other symptoms: wheezing, coughing, and tightness in the chest.

As an asthmatic, it’s important to be familiar with your triggers. Consider what you were doing when the shortness of breath occurred. Have you been in contact with anything that has been known to set your asthma off? Shortness of breath can arise for example from tobacco smoke or as a result of being exposed to allergens.

Surprising Asthma Triggers You Need to Know About

There are some very common triggers like smoke (first and secondhand), dust mites, pets, pollution, cockroaches, obesity, and mold, but there are also a few surprising triggers as well. These include:

Car emissions – It’s recommended that those who suffer from asthma avoid living near or exercising along busy roads or highways.

Mice – These little guys can carry a big punch when it comes to asthma. To be on the safe side, set up traps. And if you do suspect a mice problem, wash kitchen utensils before use.

Ladybugs – Be sure to clean out your windowsills and remove dead ladybugs from your home. Their decomposing bodies turns to dust, which can really kick asthma in to gear.

Colds and the flu – Rhinovirus, which is the main cause of a cold, is also a huge trigger for asthma attacks. Coming down with the flu can be just as bad. By getting the flu shot and washing your hands, you can lessen your chance of encountering such triggers. Here are a few more tips to help avoid or lessen the severity of colds and the flu.

Fragrances – Strong smells, like perfumes or certain flowers, can also affect asthma. Avoid scented flowers like lilies and skip the morning spray of perfume.

Hyperventilation – When emotions peak, they can lead to shortness of breath or hyperventilation, which can transition to an asthma attack. If your emotions are getting the best of you, try to calm down by taking a few deep breaths.

People with untreated asthma experience trouble breathing more frequently and more intensely than those who have their asthma well managed. That’s why it is important to keep up with the treatment plan that you and your healthcare provider have agreed upon. If you haven’t got a diagnosis yet, but are suspecting asthma, it’s important to book in for a check-up with your doctor and find out if your breathing trouble is caused by asthma. The good news is that shortness of breath caused by asthma can usually be easily managed with medications, such as inhaled corticosteroids. And when your asthma is well managed with regular medication, you are likely to avoid so-called 'asthma attacks altogether.'

7 Tips to keep your asthma under control

Although there is no cure for asthma, those with the condition can live healthy, active lives if their asthma is under control.

For World Asthma Day (May 5th), here at Health Guide 911, we have some helpful tips for people with asthma.

1. Know your triggers and avoid them

Triggers like allergens and irritants can make your asthma symptoms worse by irritating your airways. The best way to control your asthma is to know what your asthma triggers are and how to avoid them.

2. Take your asthma medication as prescribed by your doctor

Many people think they can skip their asthma preventer (controller) medications when they don't feel any symptoms – that's not true. Asthma is a chronic (long-term) disease. If you have asthma, you have it all the time, even when you don't feel symptoms. You have to manage your asthma every day, not just on days when you feel symptoms.

3. Learn how to use your inhaler properly

Your health-care provider can show you how to use your inhaler properly so that your medicine reaches the airways. Ask him or her to watch you use your inhaler. Your health-care provider may offer suggestions on how to improve your technique so that the medication gets to your airways. 

4. Quit smoking and avoid second-hand smoke

If you smoke and have asthma, you should quit smoking as this can significantly reduce the severity and frequency of your symptoms. Smoking can also reduce the effectiveness of asthma medication. If you have asthma but don’t smoke, avoid being exposed to second-hand smoke because this may trigger the worsening of your symptoms.

5. Keep fit by exercising

Exercise helps by strengthening your breathing muscles, boosting your immune system, and helping to keep a healthy body weight. The key to exercising safely is to make sure your asthma is under control before you start.

6. Be in control, get an asthma action plan

Because asthma symptoms are variable – they can get worse or better, depending on many things – you need to know how to adjust your medicines depending on your symptoms and when to seek medical help. Work with your healthcare provider to create a personalized asthma action plan for you.

7. Don’t go viral!

Viruses like the cold and flu can infect people's airways and lungs. Viral infections are a common cause of asthma symptoms. If you avoid catching viruses, you will have fewer asthma symptoms. Here are some ways to avoid viruses:
  • Wash your hands properly and often.
  • Get the flu shot.
  • Ask your health-care provider if you should get the pneumonia shot.
  • Get enough sleep. If you are well-rested, you may be less likely to have symptoms from a virus.
  • If you have a viral infection like a cold or the flu, pay attention to your symptoms. If your symptoms are getting worse, follow the directions in your asthma action plan.

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