What Is Asthma and How to Find Relief
Over 50 years ago my stay at home mom took my brother, sister, and myself to the grocery store. We lived in a town of 450 people and it hasn’t grown since. Back then it was okay for mom to leave us alone in the car and expect us to have behaved while she was inside. Dad was at work which didn’t matter because mom wouldn’t rat on us for misbehaving because she would take care of the problem on the spot. One day the scene was as described and with me being the oldest and my sister next we were laughing pretty hard at the antics of our little brother who was about two years old. We thought he was putting on a pretty good show. As it turned out he was having convulsions from an asthma attack. It scared the water out of mom when she came out and discovered what we were laughing so hard about. Her fear apparently made an impression on me too since I haven’t forgotten it.
Today, there are no known cures for asthma, a chronic lung disease that inflames and narrows the airways that causes recurring outbreaks of wheezing, tightness in the chest, shortness of breath and coughing. Generally the coughing most often occurs during the night or early in the morning because of inflamed swollen and sensitive airways. Swollen or narrow airways may make more mucus that further narrows the breathing airways. They tend to react strongly to certain inhaled substances.
Some symptoms of asthma are mild enough they go away on their own or with minimal treatment. I already described the attacks that are not pretty and can be fatal if not treated. As mentioned asthma has no known cure. The person with the disease can feel fine but they still have it and asthma can flare up at any time. There are treatments that allow people to manage their disease so a more normal, active life and getting a good night’s sleep is possible.
The statistics show that asthma can affect people of all ages, but mostly starts during childhood. More than 22 million people in the U.S. are known to have asthma with almost 6 million being children with boys having the disease more than girls.
What Causes Asthma?
No one knows the exact cause of asthma but some researchers link it genetically and environmentally. The Childhood Asthma Reduction Study (CARES) has an inner city program to get rid of cockroaches because their evidence shows allergens from cockroaches are risk factors for asthma. Contrary to the cockroach theory some researchers theorize that in the U.S. the emphasis on hygiene and sanitation shows a decline in asthma in children due to environmental exposures. Researchers continue to look for causes. Some risk factors are allergies but not all who suffer asthma have allergies, eczema or heredity. There are occupational risks with dust or chemicals in the work place. Inside some steel mills and foundries the dust level could be a contributing factor along with birds such as pigeons roosting inside the buildings.
How to Recognize the Signs and Symptoms
There are some common signs and symptoms to watch for:
Coughing – Asthma often is worse at night or early in the morning.
Wheezing when you breathe.
Shortness of breath or feeling out of breath unable to get air out of the lungs.
Then there are some people that do not have these symptoms with asthma and some showing these symptoms doesn’t mean you have it either. A lung function test and physical exam is the only way to determine for sure if it asthma is present.
Asthma symptoms may be mild enough to be an annoyance to limiting chores to severe forms that can be fatal..
What Causes Asthma Symptoms?
You can lessen asthma symptoms by being aware of things that may trigger it such as:
The known allergens from cockroaches, pollens, dust and animal fur.
Anything that irritates the lungs, cleaners, perfumes or sprays, smoke, smog or air pollution, dust or chemicals where you work.
Even the supposedly heart healthy aspirin and some non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs.
Additives in food and drinks like sulfites.
Viral upper respiratory infections. Colds and flu.
Exercise, working in the yard and trying to get some physical activity can trigger it but is not to be avoided as it is an important part of a healthy lifestyle.
What affects one person may not affect another.
There is a very long list of things to check that only a doctor can do to properly diagnose asthma. He will look at your medical and family history, a physical exam, and get test results to figure the severity and determine what treatment is necessary. Some asthma attacks only occur during certain times of the year, in certain places or if it’s worse at night. He will also check for other conditions that make managing asthma more difficult.
The goal of an asthma treatment and action plan is to control the disease to prevent coughing and other symptoms reducing the need for medicines and help maintain good lung function. The action plan provides guidance on medicines, avoiding triggers and tracking the asthma.
An asthma action plan gives guidance on taking your medicines properly, avoiding asthma triggers (except physical activity), tracking your level of asthma control, responding to worsening asthma, and seeking emergency care when needed.
As in the diagnosis of asthma there is a long list of medicines to try from pills to inhalers, long-term (inhaled corticosteroids) to quick relief medicines that are designed to prevent symptoms or reduce inflammation in the airways. The doctor will also discuss benefits as well as risks or side effects of certain medications. Thrush is a mouth infection and common side effect from inhaled corticosteroids. Quick relief inhalers do not reduce inflammation.
Getting the asthma under control is the main concern when beginning treatments and the doctor will want regular visits every 2 to 6 weeks at first until controlled changing the visit to once a month or semi-annual. The goal is to reduce medication too requiring the person with asthma to take an active role in helping control the disease by following the action plan set by the doctor while watching for signs that it may be worsening.
There are many aromatherapy and essential oils that may be helpful in breathing and can be found on the link on the website. Among several is Cajeput Essential Oil and it’s benefits include: Arthritis, asthma, bronchitis, catarrh, colds, coughs, cystitis, flu, insect bites, muscular aches and pains, oily skin, sinusitis, sore throat, urinary infection, viral infections. Cajeput can be used similar to eucalyptus during the cold season. Add it to a diffuser to disinfect the air, and clear congestion.