commission on disabled page banner

A s t h m a

W e b   P a g e

  Asthma Index
    Bronchial Asthma
    How to Avoid an Asthma Emergency
    Asthma Early Warning Signs
    Measurable Changes in Breathing
    Follow Your Asthma Action Plan
    Breathing Difficulties
    Posture Changes
    Chest and Neck Retractions
    Blue Lips or Fingernails
    Other Signs of Asthma Emergencies
    Bronchial Asthma Triggers
      Bronchial asthma triggers may include
    Signs and Symptoms of Bronchial Asthma
        Diagnosing Bronchial Asthma
         Spirometry
        Peak Expiratory Flow (PEF)
        Chest X-ray
      Treating Bronchial Asthma
To Top  To bottom
Bronchial Asthma
 

Ever hear the term "bronchial asthma" and wonder what it means? When people talk about bronchial asthma, they are really talking about asthma, a chronic inflammatory disease of the airways that causes periodic "attacks" of coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath, and chest tightness.

According to the CDC, more than 22 million Americans, including 6.5 million children under 18, suffer with asthma today. 

Allergies are strongly linked to asthma and to other respiratory diseases such as chronic sinusitis, middle ear infections, and nasal polyps. Most interestingly, a recent analysis of people with asthma showed that those who had both allergies and asthma were much more likely to have nighttime awakening due to asthma, miss work because of asthma, and require more powerful medications to control their symptoms. 

Asthma is associated with mast cells, eosinophils, and T lymphocytes. Mast cells are the allergy-causing cells that release chemicals like histamine. Histamine is the substance that causes nasal stuffiness and dripping in a cold or hay fever, constriction of airways in asthma, and itchy areas in a skin allergy. Eosinophils are a type of white blood cell associated with allergic disease. T lymphocytes are also white blood cells associated with allergy and inflammation.

These cells, along with other inflammatory cells, are involved in the development of airway inflammation in asthma that contributes to the airway hyperresponsiveness, airflow limitation, respiratory symptoms, and chronic disease. In certain individuals, the inflammation results in the feelings of chest tightness and breathlessness that's felt often at night (nocturnal asthma) or in the early morning hours. Others only feel symptoms when they exercise (called exercise-induced asthma). Because of the inflammation, the airway hyperresponsiveness occurs as a result of specific triggers.

To Top To bottom
How to Avoid an Asthma Emergency
  Asthma attacks rarely happen without warning. Knowing the signs of a pending attack could help you prevent an asthma emergency. In fact, acting quickly could save your life.

Click on the next slide to see the warning signs to watch out for.

To Top To bottom
Asthma Early Warning Signs
 
  • A lack of appetite, fatigue, headache, or coughing often comes before an asthma attack.
  • Trouble sleeping and feeling tired are other typical signs.
  • So are dark circles under the eyes and less tolerance for exercise.
To Top To bottom
A Persistent Cough
 
Signs of an asthma attack can change from one attack to the next. One time there may be little or no coughing before an attack. The next time, there may be a persistent cough, especially at night.

An asthma cough is usually dry and hacking. A chronic or persistent cough that doesn't disappear after other cold symptoms are gone could point to asthma.

Avoid taking cough medicine. Cough medicine won't help the asthma.

To Top To bottom
Measurable Changes in Breathing
 

A peak flow meter can alert you to a pending attack. Be sure you always know your baseline measurement that reflects your best breathing.

  • If your peak flow meter shows numbers between 50% and 80% of your personal best, an asthma attack has probably started.
  • A number below 50% means an emergency that needs immediate attention.
  • Call 911 if you have trouble walking or talking due to shortness of breath, or if your lips are blue or gray.
To Top To bottom
Follow Your Asthma Action Plan
 

An action plan tells you how to deal with symptoms of an asthma attack. 

  • Based on peak flow measures, an action plan shows you what medicines to take and when. It's important to follow the plan and use the medications exactly as prescribed.
  • If the symptoms still get worse after following the plan, call your asthma doctor. Also, follow the plan's emergency instructions.
To Top To bottom
Breathing Difficulties
 

During an asthma attack, muscles around the airways tighten, and the airway linings swell. 

  • Too much mucus secretion is produced in the airways and can block the air tubes in the lungs.
  • Air is trapped in the lungs and breathing becomes difficult.

You might notice symptoms of wheezing at first. But as attacks get worse there's more chest tightness and shortness of breath. Eventually, you might feel like you can't get enough air.

To Top To bottom
Posture Changes
  The effort to breathe may make someone with severe breathing difficulties lean forward, speak in words instead of sentences, and become noticeably agitated.

As the severity increases, an asthma sufferer may increasingly move into a hunched-over sitting position with their hands supporting their upper body. This is called the tripod position.

To Top To bottom
Chest and Neck Retractions
  When it's hard to breathe, the tissue in the chest and neck may sink in with each breath. This is called retraction.

Retractions mean that not enough air is getting into the lungs, and are signs of a medical emergency. Call 911 or see a doctor right away.

In children other signs of deterioration in breathing are:

  • poor appetite
  • fatigue
  • decreased activity
To Top To bottom
Blue Lips or Fingernails
 

Blue or gray lips or fingernails are a sign of not enough oxygen in the blood. The condition is called cyanosis.

Cyanosis is an emergency situation. Call 911 as soon as possible.

To Top To bottom
Other Signs of Asthma Emergencies
  If you notice any of the following, get emergency help at once:
  • difficulty talking
  • inability to exhale or inhale
  • shortness of breath
  • feelings of anxiety or panic
  • coughing that won't stop
  • pale, sweaty face
To Top To bottom
Bronchial Asthma Triggers
 

Bronchial asthma triggers may include:

  • Smoking and secondhand smoke
  • Infections such as colds, flu, or pneumonia
  • Allergens such as food, pollen, mold, dust mites, and pet dander
  • Exercise
  • Air pollution and toxins
  • Weather, especially extreme changes in temperature
  • Drugs (such as aspirin, NSAID, and beta-blockers)
  • Food additives (such as MSG)
  • Emotional stress and anxiety
  • Singing, laughing, or crying
  • Perfumes and fragrances
  • Acid reflux
To Top To bottom
Signs and Symptoms of Bronchial Asthma
  With bronchial asthma, you may have one or more of the following signs and symptoms:
  • Shortness of breath
  • Tightness of chest
  • Wheezing
  • Excessive coughing or a cough that keeps you awake at night
 
To Top To bottom
Diagnosing Bronchial Asthma
  Because asthma symptoms don't always happen during your doctor's appointment, it's important for you to describe your, or your child's, asthma signs and symptoms to your health care provider. You might also notice when the symptoms occur such as during exercise, with a cold, or after smelling smoke. Asthma tests may include:
  • Spirometry: A lung function test to measure breathing capacity and how well you breathe. You will breathe into a device called a spirometer.
  • Peak Expiratory Flow (PEF): Using a device called a peak flow meter, you forcefully exhale into the tube to measure the force of air you can expend out of your lungs. Peak flow monitoring can allow you to monitor how well your asthma is doing at home.
  • Chest X-ray: Your doctor may do a chest X-ray to rule out any other diseases that may be causing similar symptoms.
 
To Top To bottom
  Treating Bronchial Asthma
 

Once diagnosed, your health care provider will recommend asthma medication (which can include asthma inhalers and pills) and lifestyle changes to treat and prevent asthma attacks. For example, long-acting anti-inflammatory asthma inhalers are often necessary to treat the inflammation associated with asthma. These inhalers deliver low doses of steroids to the lungs with minimal side effects if used properly. The fast-acting or "rescue" bronchodilator inhaler works immediately on opening airways during an asthma attack.

If you have bronchial asthma, make sure your health care provider shows you how to use the inhalers properly. Be sure to keep your rescue inhaler with you in case of an asthma attack or asthma emergency. While there is no asthma cure yet, there are excellent asthma medications that can help with preventing asthma symptoms. Asthma support groups are also available to help you better cope with your asthma. 

click here to close
Copyright © - 2016 Chicopee Commission on Disability, All Rights Reserved