What are the key symptoms of asthma?
It is estimated that in the United States alone, there are 26 million people affected by asthma. And many of these people do not even know they are affected, especially if their symptoms are not severe. However, if left untreated, even mild asthma can be life-threatening. So if you suspect that you or a loved one may have asthma, it is imperative to speak to a medical professional as soon as possible. Here is a list of key asthma symptoms, what causes them and how to treat them.
Common Signs and Symptoms
- Tightness of the chest, which may feel like there is an immense pressure or weight bearing down on your chest.
- Shortness of breath.
- Difficulty breathing.
- Severe coughing spells, especially at night and early morning, which make it difficult to sleep. You may also experience coughing when laughing and/or exercising.
- A wheezing sound when you breathe.
It is important to remember that not everyone that has asthma will experience these symptoms and that experiencing these symptoms are not proof alone as that you have asthma. If you suspect you have asthma, you should consult your doctor immediately so they can run a lung function test.
In addition, if you have a history of asthma or other respiratory difficulties in your family you will need to discuss that with your doctor as it increases the likelihood that you have asthma.
What Causes Asthma Symptoms to Occur?
Asthma symptoms are brought on by asthma triggers such as:
- Irritants: cigarette smoke, perfume, sprays like hairspray or room deodorizers, cleaning products like bleach, chemical fumes, etc. Some people may have occupational asthma that occurs because of a chemical irritant that they come into contact with at the workplace.
- Allergens: Pollen, dust, dust mites, cockroaches, mold, pet dander, ragweed, etc.
- Intense emotions: anger, stress, fear, and anxiety. Things like crying and/or yelling trigger physiological responses that can affect your ability to breathe.
- Strenuous exercise.
- Having a cold or the flu.
- Having a sinus infection or other respiratory diseases.
- Having a medical condition like sleep apnea or obesity.
- Medicines such as aspirin and other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs.
- Sulfites found in some foods and drinks
- The weather and seasonal changes.
Once you and your doctor have identified your asthma triggers, one of the best ways to prevent asthma attacks is to alleviate these triggers from your home. In addition, it is best to create an asthma action plan with your doctor, so you and those around you know what to do in the event of an attack.
Having a strategy in place can help relieve your stress and anxiety, which in turn can help you have fewer attacks. It is also important to alert your workplace about any workplace irritants that may cause you to have an asthma attack so proper measures can be taken.
How to Prevent and Treat Asthma
- Get vaccinated for flu and pneumonia.
- Take your medication as prescribed.
- Keep a quick relief inhaler on hand and monitor how often you use it. Overuse means that your asthma is not in control, and you need to speak to your doctor about changing your medication.
- Monitor your breathing and treat asthma attacks early.
- If your asthma is triggered by allergens, you can receive allergy shots that can help greatly lessen allergic reactions. Allergen immunotherapy can also help as it can help decrease a person’s allergic reaction by exposing the person to a small amount of the allergen over time.
- Use a dehumidifier in your home, especially at night because humidity can make it hard to breathe.
- Use a HEPA air filtration system that removes allergens and irritants from your home. HEPA filters can be installed on your air conditioners, vacuum cleaner, and air purifiers.
- Frequently dust, mop, and vacuum your home. If dust worsens your asthma symptoms, consider wearing a mask while dusting.
- Use allergy-proof covers on your pillows and mattress.
- Don’t allow pets in bedrooms or on furniture.
Now that you know the key symptoms of asthma, be sure to visit a physician immediately if you suspect you or your child may be asthmatic. If you have further questions about asthma symptoms and treatments, feel free to contact Dr. Mayank Shukla at your earliest convenience.