Asthma causes breathing difficulty because it inflames your bronchial tubes (airways of the lungs), narrows them and increases mucus production that clogs up the tubes. Asthma symptoms can be persistent or sporadic, severe or mild. It can happen to both children and adults. This chronic respiratory disease cannot be cured. But treatment can prevent flare-ups and keep the symptoms under check. A multi-faceted approach to treatment is required to manage asthma, which includes medication, exercise, and the adoption of precautionary measures.
Explain your medical history to your doctor
Asthma has many triggers and they need to be addressed for effective treatment of asthma. If you had already been diagnosed with another illness such as acid reflux, obesity, sleep apnea then you need to tell your doctor about that. These factors aggravate asthma. And you will need asthma medicines that take these factors into consideration and do not negate the efficacy of the medicines you are taking for the other ailments.
Allergies are often responsible for causing an asthma attack. That is why your doctor will also recommend a visit to an allergy specialist who can recommend medicines (both oral and topical) to curb your allergy symptoms, which in turn will control asthma.
Medicines for asthma treatment
Extensive research into asthma and its causes has led pharmaceutical scientists to invent quite a few medicines that are very effective against asthma. An asthma patient needs two kinds of drugs-
- Instant relief medicines which are needed during an asthma attack
- Long-term medicines that will lower the instances of attacks
Quick-relief medicines should always be on your person because asthma attacks are unpredictable and a trigger could cause one any time. These medicines are usually-
- Short-acting beta2-agonists that are inhaled
These drugs are ‘bronchodilators’ which means the moment they enter your bronchial tubes, they decongest and expand them and allow more air to pass through them. And you will be able to breathe with ease. These meds come in inhalers. Moreover, they also cleanse your sinuses of mucus by letting it move easily and allowing you to cough it out.
Even though the fast relieving medicines rid you of asthma symptoms, they cannot reduce inflammation. That is why if you notice that you have to use your inhaler more than two times every week, it could be because your asthma is getting worse and inflammation isn’t allowing the drugs to do their work. This calls for another visit to the doctor.
Then there are the long-term medicines that you have to take every day without fail even if the symptoms of asthma do not manifest themselves. These meds contain-
- Cromolyn sodium
- Corticosteroids (inhaled)
- Corticosteroids (oral)
- Long inhaled beta2-agonists
- Antileukotrienes or leukotriene modifiers
Do not self prescribe or decide the dosage of corticosteroids because these are very powerful drugs and your doctor will know just how much (or whether you need the oral/inhaled variant) you need based on your symptoms, severity of the disorder and your age.
Immunotherapy for asthma treatment
This is recommended for people whose asthma is a result of severe and frequent allergies. There are two kinds of therapy-
- Allergy injections
Allergies happen when your immunity is oversensitive to allergens like pollen, mold particles, pet sheddings, etc. You will be given regular shots to make your immunity robust and better equipped to deal with allergens. Your doctor will inject small amounts of allergens into your body to build up immunity and you will be given other medicines to curb the insignificant side-effects. This therapy will in a few years completely eliminate allergic reaction and thus bring your asthma in control.
- Sub-lingual tablets
If allergies happen during specific times of the year such as the spring or winter, you will have to take these medicines for the three months leading up to the season. You have to keep the tablet under your tongue and let it dissolve. This treatment could last as long as three years before your symptoms are eradicated.
Keep track of your symptoms
Once you are put under medication, it is your responsibility to understand how well your body is responding to treatment. Talk to your doctor about a modification of your treatment if you notice-
- Increasing tightness of the chest
- Whistling sounds emanating when you breathe out
- Breathing trouble is interrupting your sleep
- You need more puffs of the inhaler
- New substances are triggering asthma symptoms
Monitoring your lung capacity
To figure out if asthma treatment is producing the desired effect, your doctor will want to monitor your lung functionality. And there are two ways this can be done-
- Spirometer Test
The spirometer is a device in your doctor’s clinic. There is a tube attached to it. You will have to take a deep breath and exhale all of it into the tube. The spirometer will measure the volume of air you just exhaled. If over time, the reading goes up meaning you are able to breathe in more fully and discharge more air, it will indicate that your lung capacity is improving. Based on the results your medication will be altered.
- Peak Flow
You may have to purchase a small handheld peak flow measuring device or visit the doctor often for this test. Like the spirometer, this device also has a tube and you will have to breathe into it. This instrument measure how rapidly you can discharge the air in your lungs. This will gauge the percentage of your lung capacity.
Prepare an asthma action plan
All asthma patients are strictly advised to chalk out an asthma action plan. This is your personal guide for managing this disorder. You have to enter some key information in your plan. Note down the medicines that you have to take every day, ways to track your symptoms, the dates of your doctor’s consultation and medicines you need to keep handy to deal with an asthma emergency. Save the emergency number of a hospital on your phone.
If you are obese it will make your asthma worse. That is why your treatment will actually consist of a fitness regime that will get you in shape so that your asthma meds work better. You will have to do a few cardio exercises (with EIB meds if necessary) and stay on a strict diet.
Breathing exercises are an effective asthma treatment
Certain breathing exercises like diaphragmatic breathing, nasal breathing, pursed-lip breathing, and Buteyko breathing help unclog your airways and subside the inflammation. Regular practice of these exercises will provide long term relief from asthma symptoms.
Take action against GERD
GERD or heartburn is linked to asthma. It can worsen your asthma symptoms and the two often happen simultaneously.
Home remedies for asthma
While asthma treatment at home is not a substitution for medication, they can improve the efficacy of your treatment. Here are a few home remedies that you can try out-
- Ginger raises your body temperature slightly, but enough to clear up your constricted airways. Add it to your cooking or eat a small portion of it raw.
- Caffeinated coffee or tea can decongest you and reduce inflammation. But keep your caffeine intake limited to two cups a day.
- Camphor mixed with mustard oil can relieve many asthma symptoms when massaged over the chest.
- Consume lots of sea fishes because they contain Omega 3 fatty acids that can reduce inflammation.
- Boil 8 cloves of garlic in water, pour it into a glass through a sieve, let it cool and drink the concoction luke-warm garlic too can reduce bronchial inflammation.
- You can either swallow a tablespoon of honey or stir it into warm water. Honey can liquefy the mucus and unblock your airways.
Asthma treatment is individual-centric. There are many medicines and ways that you can control your asthma symptoms. Collaborate with your doctor and keep an eagle eye on your progress.