Asthma sufferers face several challenges in everyday life. Episodes may constrict airways and obstruct breathing. A severe asthma attack can deny oxygen to vital organs and even result in death. Patients with asthma usually must take daily medications, be aware of their risks, and avoid areas and behaviors that can trigger asthma.
Asthma may be triggered by a number of stimuli. Environmental irritants such as smog, cigarette smoke, or a severe cold may set off symptoms. Some asthma sufferers may find that symptoms are initiated during physical exertion or exercise. Respiratory infections or allergies may also contribute to an attack. Even strong emotional responses can instigate an episode.
When an asthma sufferer encounters something that triggers an attack, symptoms usually include shortness of breath, cough, and wheezing. These can progress to include rapid pulse, extremely difficult respiration, and mental confusion. Symptoms may be treated with a variety of medications.
Treatment of asthma may be of the long-term or short-term variety. Long-term medications are generally preventative in nature. Short-term drugs are fast-acting and may be used during attacks to relieve symptoms.
Long-term medications are generally taken on a daily basis. Commonly used therapy medications may include corticosteroids administered via an inhaler, bronchodilators, or leukotriene inhibitors. Corticosteroid inhalers help to prevent inflammation, while bronchodilators assist in keeping airways open. Leukotriene inhibitors are used to prevent swelling in lung tissue. Sometimes these medications are taken in combination, to find the best method for controlling symptoms.
Short-term medications are commonly taken during an asthma attack to relieve symptoms. Asthma inhalers with short-acting bronchodilators can quickly open constricted airways. Corticosteroids, either taken orally or by injection, can also swiftly decrease inflammation in the respiratory tract.
Asthma sufferers may have to make lifestyle changes to decrease the likelihood of an attack. Animal allergies may necessitate removing a pet from a home, if animal dander is a trigger. Changing to unscented cleaning solutions and detergents may help decrease attacks related to strong odors. Tobacco smoke is often a strong trigger for asthma sufferers. Smoke residue can reside in clothing and hair which may cause relationship issues with family and friends.
Persistent coughing, altered lung function, and an inability to participate in some activities due to triggers are all challenges for asthma sufferers. The risk of serious complications of attacks, such as the need for a ventilator to facilitate breathing, may add additional stress to the patient. If symptoms are not well controlled, an asthma sufferer may follow up with a physician or respiratory therapist to find the best individual therapy options.