24.6 million US citizens suffer from asthma and the figure is on the increase. The prevalence of the condition has been associated with lifestyle, the increase of allergenic irritants in the atmosphere, the fact that more people lead stressful lives and genetic factors.
Some are born with the condition, while others may develop it in later life. The disease affects the airways leading to the lungs, causing them to become inflamed and therefore restricting breathing. The patient begins to wheeze and suffers from tightness of the chest. In severe cases it may be necessary for them to be hospitalized in order to get help with their breathing. Fortunately, such situations are rare and most people learn to live with their disease and acquire a range of coping mechanisms. If someone notices that their breathing becomes labored in certain situations they should visit their doctor for a breathing test, which involves a peak flow meter. Some panic attacks mimic asthma and it’s important to distinguish between the two.
Once a person has been diagnosed as having asthma they should seek support without delay. Many only need to carry an inhaler that has been designed to provide instant relief by temporarily dilating the airways. Others may need additional help, in the form of medication, for example Advair or a similar preparation that may have to be taken on a daily basis.
A healthy lifestyle is important for asthmatics, as is gaining an understanding the condition. Most patients are aware that certain triggers can provoke an asthma attack and once these have been identified the patient can take steps to avoid such occurrences. Asthma can also be caused by genetic factors, so if a close relative has the condition the patient’s healthcare practitioner should be informed.
There is a close relationship between allergies and asthma; some people just have to be in the same room as certain animals, for example and they immediately start to wheeze. Many sufferers also start to feel uncomfortable as a result of pollen or dirt in the air. Food is another trigger; shellfish really doesn’t agree with everyone and nut allergies can prove to be life threatening. Once the triggers have been identified it’s important to examine coping mechanisms.
Some asthmatics are wary of exercising, but this is actually one of the means by which the brain’s natural endorphins are released. It reduces stress and is good for the heart and lungs. Any exercise that improves lung capacity is extremely beneficial for asthmatics and it may also help reduce the incidence of future attacks. Acupuncture and yoga can also be beneficial, as they reduce stress levels, which in turn enable patients to deal with their condition more easily. Obviously, if pollen is one of the triggers it is advisable to work out in a gym rather than taking exercise out of doors. The more familiar a person is with their condition and how it affects them personally, the more confident they will become. One final tip is to carry a card at all times giving emergency contact details and information about the condition.