Asthma is one of the most common lung diseases, affecting more than 300 million people worldwide and causing more than 1,000 deaths in the United States each year. Unfortunately, many people don’t realize that they have asthma—or that their asthma could be better controlled—until it’s too late to prevent further complications. That’s why you should take steps to learn about asthma and what you can do to manage it—especially if you suffer from chronic asthma, which is much harder to control than the short-term version.
What Is Asthma?
Asthma is a chronic lung disease that causes an inflammatory reaction in your airways. When someone has asthma, their immune system may be sensitized to something that triggers an allergic reaction. That is why it is so important to understand what you are sensitive to, what makes your symptoms worse, and how you can avoid those things if possible. With proper treatment, most people with asthma can lead a healthy life. There are three types of asthma: allergic (by far the most common), non-allergic/airway inflammation, and exercise-induced. We will cover each below as well as many other frequently asked questions about asthma.
What Causes Asthma?
There is no known single cause for asthma. Research points to a number of genetic, environmental, immune system and lifestyle factors that play a role in causing asthma symptoms. Some of these include allergens such as mold, dust mites, cockroaches, fungi and pet dander; viral infections; pollution; extreme temperatures; secondhand smoke; stress and smoking.
The most common triggers for asthma attacks are allergies, exercise, cold air, secondhand smoke, pollution, and respiratory infections. People with asthma may also have flare-ups after drinking alcohol or eating certain foods. But what causes asthma in the first place? Researchers aren’t quite sure—and likely never will be—but a combination of genetic factors and external triggers likely play a role. In other words: it’s complicated.
What Are the Symptoms of Allergies, Skin Problems and Sinus Infections?
Allergies, asthma, and sinus infections are known as upper respiratory infections. And although they are completely different types of illnesses, there is a lot in common with these conditions. The causes for all three problems stem from an inflammation or irritation in your nose. That irritation can cause swelling around your nostrils, throat or eyes. Allergies are probably best known for making it difficult to breathe; that’s because as our bodies react to what we believe to be a dangerous substance (whether it’s pollen or peanuts), we begin to create histamines which leads to inflammation throughout our airways. Sinus infections occur when bacteria irritate your sinuses.
How Can I Manage My Child’s Allergies?
As a parent, you have likely noticed that your child has begun to experience an increase in allergies, asthma, and other chronic respiratory diseases. This is known as the allergic march—when your child experiences more allergic reactions than are usual for his or her age group. Allergies in children can range from common hay fever to food allergies to more serious asthma. While many children grow out of these allergies (if they do appear), others will see them grow into full-blown respiratory illnesses with long-term complications. Help your child manage his or her allergies by learning what might be causing them in order to improve both your own quality of life and your child’s overall well-being.
For many people, allergies are a minor annoyance, but for others—like kids with asthma—they can be a major health problem. Luckily, there’s plenty you can do to keep your child as healthy as possible. One of our top tips is to educate yourself on asthma triggers: what they are, where they come from, how you can avoid them and most importantly how to recognize them. This will give you a greater chance of preventing attacks in time. Another tip is to stay calm. If an attack begins, or your child senses an attack coming on, remain relaxed; if everyone calms down it makes managing asthma much easier since stress exacerbates symptoms significantly.
How Is Asthma Treated?
There are several approaches to treating asthma, depending on where your asthma lies on the spectrum from mild to severe. If you have mild to moderate asthma, you might be able to control your symptoms through changes in lifestyle, including diet and exercise. If those don’t help, medication can bring relief. And if you have severe asthma that doesn’t respond well to conventional treatments—or if it keeps coming back despite treatment—you might need a procedure called bronchial thermoplasty. It delivers short bursts of radio waves into your airways with a device similar to a stethoscope. The purpose is to damage some of your airway tissue so that it’s less sensitive.
Currently, no cure exists for asthma. However, there are many treatments available to control symptoms and keep asthma under control so that patients can live a long and healthy life. Treatment will depend on what triggers your symptoms, how severe they are, and whether you have allergies or not. For example, if your asthma is triggered by pollen in springtime (which it often is), you may be prescribed allergy medications to reduce your reaction to allergens. These medications can also be used during seasonal outbreaks to make them more bearable. It’s a good idea to ask your doctor if any treatment options could help ease your asthma symptoms before suffering through another bout of wheezing.
How Do I Recognize a Severe Allergic Reaction?
A severe allergic reaction can begin within seconds or minutes after exposure to an allergen. Symptoms include sudden swelling of the face, lips, tongue, or throat; trouble breathing; hoarseness; wheezing; dizziness; nausea; vomiting; abdominal cramps. Severe reactions are life-threatening and require immediate medical attention. See a doctor immediately if you think you might be having a severe allergic reaction.
Anaphylaxis occurs in response to allergens like peanuts, penicillin, or latex. Its symptoms are a life-threatening reaction that involves several parts of your body at once. That’s why it’s so important for you to learn how to recognize anaphylaxis in its early stages. The first sign you’ll likely notice is trouble breathing.
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