July 15th, 2013
Asthma is a condition in which breathing becomes very difficult. Symptoms common to experience include coughing, wheezing, and chest tightness. Asthma severity can range from person to person. Symptoms often arise when exercising, which is called exercise-induced asthma. This can occur when air is cold and dry such as when one may experience while out skiing.
Allergy-induced asthma can cause symptoms triggered by particular allergens such as pollen, pet dander, and cockroaches. Other triggers include allergic reactions, respiratory infections (common cold), certain medications (beta blockers, aspirin, ibuprofen), strong emotions and stress, gastroesophageal reflux, or the menstrual cycle in some women.
Risk factors for asthma include having a blood relative with asthma, having an allergic reaction, being overweight, being a smoker, exposure to secondhand smoke, having a mother who smoked while pregnant, exposure to exhaust fumes or other pollution, exposure to chemicals, or low birth weight.
One must seek emergency medical attention if rapid worsening or shortness of breath or wheezing occurs, if no improvement after use of a quick-relief inhaler, or shortness of breath after only minimal physical activity.
A few home remedies or changes to your daily life to help keep asthma in check: avoid your triggers, use your air conditioner, decontaminate your decor, maintain optimal humidity, prevent mold spores, reduce pet dander, clean regularly, and cover your nose and mouth if it’s cold outside. Another good way to keep asthma at bay is to continue skiing regularly, maintain a healthy weight, eat fruits and vegetables, and control heartburn.
Prevention of asthma can occur by following an asthma action plan, getting immunizations for influenza and pneumonia, identifying and avoiding asthma triggers, monitoring breathing, identifying and treating attacks early, taking medications as prescribed, and paying attention to increasing quick-relief inhaler use.
If you are alone and experiencing an asthma attack or with an individual having an asthma attack, maintaining calm is the best tool. Simple breathing exercises can help by taking slow, shallow breathes through the nose. Ordinarily, asthma attacks occur when the individual panics and breathes as quickly and deeply as possible.
Breathing rate is controlled by the amount of carbon dioxide (the gas that regulates the acid-base level of the blood), not the amount of oxygen in the blood. Therefore, a method to treat an asthma attack is to have the person with the attack breath into a paper bag (such as a brown paper lunch bag) of some sort to increase the amount of carbon dioxide in the body. This old trick in the movies really works!
If the person has an inhaler, help them find it, instruct them to use it, and continue to have them remain calm and control their breathing until breathing has returned to normal. If breathing cannot be controlled or returned to normal, even after the use of an inhaler, it becomes an emergency situation and one must seek medical attention. One must seek emergency medical attention if rapid worsening or shortness of breath or wheezing occurs, if no improvement after use of a quick-relief inhaler, or shortness of breath after only minimal physical activity.