Asthma is a respiratory disorder in which the airways become inflammed causing wheezing, shortness of breath and coughing.

According to recent studies 1:3 people can expect to develop asthma at some point in their lives. The person is more likely develop the disorder during childhood, but the risk can persists into adulthood.

Cause-The main cause of asthma is an inflammation of the airways; the inflammation causes the lining of the air passages to swell.

With individuals who are especially sensitive, an asthmatic attack can be caused by exposure to allergens such as pollen, molds, dust mites and pet dander.

Other causes are respiratory infections, exercise, cold air, tobacco smoke, pollutants and allergies to food and drugs.

Characteristics of Asthma- An asthma attack may last from minutes to even days. Most asthma patients experience wheezing separated by periods of no symptoms at all. Others may have long-term shortness of breath with episodes of increased shortness of breath. Some patients may only have a cough.

Symptoms of Asthma are:

  • Wheezing, usually begins suddenly
  • Wheezing that comes in episodes
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath
  • Intercostal retraction
  • Chest pain

In severe cases there may be difficulty breathing, severe anxiety, tightness in the chest, sweating, confusion and rapid pulse

Self Management
There is no cure for asthma but with good medication management and self care the person can expect to live a normal life.

An asthma attack can take one by surprise, so self monitoring at home is important.

Measuring the lung volume regularly can tell person when an attack is coming on or when to take medication. Measuring the lung volume is done using a peak flow meter and is measured in %volume. It is a simple device that can be used at home to manage the disorder.

A peak flow reading can tell the person whether an attack will be mild or severe so the correct action can be taken.

Patients suffering from an asthma attack can learn to manage their health by reducing exposure to known allergens, cigarette smoke, air pollutants and industrial dusts.

They can schedule outdoor physical activities and exercise for when the air quality index is less than 4.

Contacting a health professional- Patients will need to contact a medical professional or go to an emergency room for a peak flow of 50-80%, for moderate shortness of breath or a change in medication.

The individual is advised to go to an emergency room for prompt treatment if the following occur:

  • Severe chest pain
  • Severe shortness of breath
  • Drowsiness
  • A peak flow of less than 50%

Treatment- Mild and moderate asthma is treated with medication; mild cases can find relief with quick relief medication as necessary, moderate cases will need medication regularly to prevent symptoms.

A severe case of asthma is considered an emergency and will require medical attention. Hospitalization is sometimes necessary in severe cases, in which case oxygen or intravenous medication can be given.

Managing one's health at home is possible through patient health education. Once the individual leaves the health care professional self care must begin to manage the disorder and live a normal life.

Although there is no cure for asthma, with good medication management and self care one can live a normal life.