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Signs and Symptoms of Asthma
Most people with asthma have warning signs before symptoms appear. Warning signs are not the same for everyone. Even your own warning signs may differ from time to time. If you learn what your warning signs are, you can start treatment earlier. This can prevent you from having a serious asthma attack. Some of the warning signs of asthma or signs of an asthma attack are listed below.
• Abnormal breathing – This includes breathing faster than normal, shortness of breath or labored breathing. • Persistent cough – this cough may be worse at night or early in the morning. • Tightness in the chest. • Fatigue, feeling constantly tired. • Wheezing, congestion in the head and/or scratchy or sore throat • Fast heartbeat. • Head congestion
There are many things that can cause an asthma attack. Below are some of the most common triggers.
• Air pollution. • Animals. • Cold weather. • Dust. • Exercise. • Food. • Lung infections. • Molds. • Pollen. • Smoke. • Stress.
Asthma is divided into 4 broad categories or “levels”
• Intermittent level: This is the least severe level of asthma. A person is considered to be in this level when he shows asthma symptoms no more than 2 times a week and does not wake up at night with asthma symptoms more than twice a month. At this level, an asthma attack can last from several hours to several days, but there are no symptoms between asthma attacks. Between asthma attacks, peak expiratory flow or “PEF” is normal or varies less than 20%. PEF is a measure of airflow in your lungs. A peak flow meter is used to obtain a PEF reading.
• Mild Persistent: A person at this level has asthma symptoms more than 2 times a week, but not on a daily basis, and will have nighttime asthma symptoms more than twice a month. At this level, asthma attacks can slow down daily activities. The PEF reading will vary from 20% to 30%.
• Moderately persistent: A person at this level has asthma symptoms every day and has asthma symptoms at night about once a week. Asthma attacks can occur at least twice a week and last for several days. In this phase, the person will use a short-acting inhaled asthma medicine every day. Asthma attacks not only slow down daily activities, but can even prevent some of them. The PEF reading can vary by more than 30%.
• Severe persistent: This is the most serious level of asthma. A person at this level shows asthma symptoms all the time both day and night. Asthma symptoms severely limit a person’s physical activity, and asthma attacks are common
You and your doctor will develop a plan to treat your asthma. Depending on the severity of your condition, you may or may not need medication to control your asthma. Generally, asthma medications fall into 2 categories; drugs for long-term control and quick relief
1) Long-term control medications are taken every day to control persistent asthma by reducing inflammation in the airways. This group of drugs prevents the onset of airway swelling. This medicine is placed in an inhaler that you breathe through.
2) Quick-relief medications are taken to open the airways quickly and to treat symptoms such as coughing, chest tightness, wheezing, or difficulty breathing. This class of drugs is known as bronchodilators. Bronchodilators relax the muscles that have tightened around the airways. Once these muscles relax, the airways open up so you can breathe more easily.
In short, education is key. You need to learn to watch for signs that your asthma is getting worse, as well as what to do to stop an asthma attack. During an asthma attack, you can usually take care of yourself at home. However, if your breathing does not improve with medication or treatment, you should contact your doctor as alternative treatment may be necessary.
If you have asthma, you may feel scared or anxious. Some people blame themselves and think they did something wrong. These are normal feelings and should be discussed with your doctor or someone close to you. Ask your doctor about support groups for people with asthma. Such a group can provide you with support and information Call or write to the following groups for more information:
American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology 611 East Wells Street Milwaukee, WI 53202 Phone: 1-800-822-ASMA Web Address: http://www.aaaai.org
American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology 85 West Algonquin Road, Suite 550 Arlington Heights, IL 60005 Phone: 1-800-842-7777 Web Address: [http://allergy.mcg.edu]
Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America 1233 20th Street NW, Suite 402 Washington, DC 20036 Phone: 1-800-727-8462 Web Address: http://aafa.org
National Asthma Education and Prevention Program National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute National Asthma Education and Prevention Program PO Box 30105 Bethesda, MD 20824-0105 Phone: 1-301-592-8573 Web Address: http://www.nhlbi.nih . gov/health/infoctr/index.htm
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