Asthma Information

Health condition
Most asthma episodes or attacks start slowly. If not stopped, the person can difficulty breathing and become life threatening. During an asthma attack, the airways get narrow, making it difficult to breathe. Common symptoms of asthma are:

· usually begins suddenly
· is episodic
· may be worse at night or in early morning
· aggravated by exposure to cold air
· aggravated by exercise
· aggravated by heartburn (reflux)
· resolves spontaneously
· relieved by bronchodilators (drugs that open the airways)

Wheezing is a high-pitched whistling sound produced by air flowing through narrowed breathing tubes, especially the smaller ones deep in the lung. It is a common finding in asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). The clinical importance of wheezing is that it is an indicator of airway narrowing, and it may indicate difficulty breathing.

Wheezing is most obvious when exhaling (breathing out), but may be present during either inspiration (breathing in) or exhalation. Wheezing most often comes from the small bronchial tubes (breathing tubes deep in the chest), but it may originate if larger airways are obstructed or in certain cases of vocal cord abnormalities.

v Cough with or without sputum (phlegm) production shortness of breath that is aggravated by exercise breathing that requires increased work intercostal retractions (pulling of the skin between the ribs when breathing)

v Shortness of breath

Some asthmatics have chronic shortness of breath with episodes of increased shortness of breath. Other asthmatics may have cough as their predominant symptom. Asthma attacks can last minutes to days, and can become dangerous if the airflow becomes severely restricted.

When an asthma attack occurs, the muscles of the bronchial tree become tight and the lining of the air passages swells, reducing airflow and producing the characteristic wheezing sound. Mucus production is increased. Most people with asthma have periodic wheezing attacks separated by symptom-free periods.

Emergency symptoms:
· extreme difficulty breathing
· bluish color to the lips and face
· severe anxiety
· rapid pulse
· sweating
· decreased level of consciousness (severe drowsiness or confusion) during an asthma attack

Additional symptoms that may be associated with this disease:
· nasal flaring
· chest pain
· tightness in the chest
· abnormal breathing pattern, in which exhalation (breathing out) takes more than twice as long as inspiration (breathing in)
· breathing which temporarily stops
· coughing up blood

In sensitive individuals, asthma symptoms can be triggered by inhaled allergens (allergy triggers), such as pet dander, dust mites, cockroach allergens, molds, or pollens. Asthma symptoms can also be triggered by respiratory infections, exercise, cold air, tobacco smoke and other pollutants, stress, food, or drug allargy. Aspirin and other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDS) provoke asthma in some patients.

There are many kinds of triggers. They can range from viruses (such as colds) to allergies, to gases and particles in the air. Given this range, you may find it hard to figure out what starts your asthma attacks. Below are some of the common triggers:

· Dogs, cats, or other animals
· Colds or flu
· Pollen from trees, grasses, and weeds
· Dust or mold
· Strong odors from perfumes, paints, sprays, or other items
· Smoke from cigarettes or from burning wood, paper, or other items
· Weather changes or very cold air
· Air pollution
· Crying, laughing, or yelling
· Exercising, what type of exercise?
· Aspirin or other medicine
· Other

Once you find out your triggers, you can do something to prevent your asthma attacks. This gives you control. The result is that when and if you have attacks, there's a good chance that they will be less severe and you won't have as many.

For example, do you get an asthma attack after you've exercised? If you do, you should tell your doctor. You can get help.

Most people can tell when an asthma episode is coming.

You can often stop an asthma episode when you catch it early and take your medicine. If you fail to do this, your symptoms may get worse. Learn what your warning signs are. Make a plan with your doctor or nurse about what to do when you notice your warning signs.

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