Asthma is a common chronic lung disease that can make it difficult to breathe. Although there is no cure for asthma, those with the condition can live healthy, active lives if their asthma is under control.
Asthma is a chronic disease involving the airways in the lungs. The airways are sensitive and swell in response to certain triggers. These changes cause the airways to become narrow and fill with mucus, making it difficult to breathe and causing typical asthma symptoms, such as coughing, wheezing, chest tightness and shortness of breath.
Living with asthma and controlling its symptoms can be challenging. However, achieving control is important because if left untreated symptoms worsen, and rarely lead to fatality, according to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.
What Triggers Asthma?
An asthma trigger is an exposure, activity or condition that makes asthma worse. When you encounter a trigger, it can cause a sudden worsening of symptoms, often called an asthma attack, episode or flare-up.
The most common asthma triggers include:
- Allergies (Food allergy, dust mite allergy, and pollen allergy)
- Strenuous exercise
- Air pollution (Smog, vehicle exhaust, and fumes)
- Upper respiratory infection (Cold, flu, bronchitis, and sinus infections)
- Medications (Anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen, naproxen, and medications used to treat heart disease, high blood pressure, and glaucoma)
- Weather (Cold air, extreme temperature, and high humidity)
- Strong emotions (Stress, anxiety, crying, yelling, anger, or laughing hard)
- Strong odors (perfumes, cleaning products, air fresheners or gas stove)
- Animals (Cats, dogs, birds, ferrets, hamsters, Guinea pigs, rabbits or mice)
- Pests (Dust mites, cockroaches, and rodents)
How to Manage Asthma?
Asthma is a long-term medical condition. It is present even when the person is not experiencing symptoms or having asthma ‘attack’. This means you or your child need to keep managing asthma all the time, not just when troubled by symptoms.
Asthma Management Plan
Track asthma symptoms.
This will help you to know if you or your child’s condition is improving or getting worse. It will also give you and your doctor valuable information about what has helped and what you should avoid.
Record peak flow readings.
A peak flow meter is an inexpensive, portable, handheld device for those with asthma that is used to measure how well air moves out of your lungs. Measuring the peak flow using this meter is an important part of managing you or your child’s asthma symptoms and preventing an asthma attack.
Assess asthma control.
Many asthma plans use a “traffic light” system of green, yellow and red zones that correspond to worsening symptoms. This system can help you quickly determine asthma severity and identify signs of an asthma exacerbation.
Because asthma can change over time, work closely with your healthcare provider to track you or your child’s symptoms and adjust asthma medications if needed.
Recognize and treat an asthma attack.
The severity of an asthma attack can escalate rapidly, so it’s important to treat these symptoms immediately once you recognize them. Follow the instructions for using the quick-acting medications to get the symptoms under control.
Know when to seek emergency care.
Some asthma attacks can’t be managed at home. Use the action plan to recognize the signs of rapidly worsening asthma. If you use a peak flow meter, the action plan will also tell you when low peak flow readings signal that an asthma attack has become an emergency. Contact your doctor or call 911 right away, if immediate medical attention is necessary.
Avoid asthma triggers.
Avoiding all of the asthma triggers can be difficult. However, with a little planning, you can learn to prevent exposure to triggers and reduce the risk for an asthma flare-up or attack. Your doctor may recommend allergy shots for triggers that you can’t avoid.
Is There a Home Remedies for Asthma?
Asthma is serious and should be discussed with your doctor, who will prescribe medications to treat sudden symptoms and reduce inflammation, which helps prevent asthma exacerbations. In addition to medical therapy, home remedies may help reduce the severity and frequency of an asthma exacerbation and to help manage your symptoms when they happen.
Buteyko Breathing Technique
This technique is developed by Russian-born researcher Konstantin Pavlovich Buteyko. It consists of shallow breathing exercises designed to help people with asthma breathe easier.
Breathing in warm, moist air may help the muscles in the bronchioles relax, which reduces the feeling of chest tightness.
Sitting straight upright with good posture will help open up your air passageway as much as possible, allowing you to breathe more efficiently. Typically lying down will worsen symptoms during an exacerbation.
Using herbs that are relaxing, antispasmodic and anti-inflammatory in nature like valerian, kava, or lemon balm at night, may help supplement traditional medical therapy.
Other studies have looked at using magnesium, omega-3 fatty acids, and antioxidants supplements such as vitamin C and vitamin E for asthma symptoms. However, there is not enough evidence to recommend these natural therapies.
Caffeinated Tea or Coffee
The caffeine in black or green tea and coffee can help treat asthma. It works similarly to popular asthma medication theophylline, which opens up the airways. Black tea and coffee can help with an asthma attack in an emergency when you’re without your inhaler. The coffee or tea should be warm for faster relief.
Honey increases saliva production. As saliva lubricates the airways and reduces irritation in the throat, it may provide symptomatic relief.
Diet may play a role in the severity of symptoms of both atopic and nonatopic asthmatics. It is important to identify foods that may provoke a reaction.
There is no cure for asthma, but a person can control symptoms and inflammations. Taking medications and learning to identify and avoid triggers are the most effective ways to prevent asthma attacks.
If you are going to try a natural remedy to treat your asthma, never use one in place of your conventional asthma medication. Also, don’t use any alternative treatment without talking to your doctor first.
Dr. Amy Schiffman, an asthma specialist in Boca Raton, can help you recognize what makes your asthma worse, and help you find some solutions to reduce and avoid asthma triggers. To book an appointment today, contact her at 561-409-2800.