Asthma 101: Understanding Asthma

Learning about asthma helps with the management of the disease

One of the major communicable diseases that affects millions of adults and children around the world is asthma. The World Health Organization has estimated approximately 262 million people were affected by asthma in the year 2019 alone. In that same year, asthma is also estimated to have caused 461,000 deaths globally.

Asthma has grown to become many parents’ nightmare because it’s the most common chronic disease among children. However, there is a light at the end of the tunnel when it comes to this seemingly never ending nightmare for many. The bright side here is that avoiding asthma triggers can help to reduce asthma symptoms.

Before we delve further into the triggers and symptoms of asthma, let’s learn a little more on what this medical condition is.

What is asthma?

Asthma is a long-term disease of the lungs. It affects both children and adults. Asthma causes your airways to get inflamed and narrow, thus making it harder to breathe. People who experience severe asthma may have difficulties talking or being active.

Asthma also goes by other names such as “bronchial asthma” or a chronic respiratory disease.

Types of asthma

There are various kinds of asthma. Here are some of the types that are commonly spoken about.

  • Allergic asthma

Often triggered by allergens in the environment.

  • Nonallergic asthma

Develops due to genetics and environmental factors revolving around the weather, stress and respiratory infections.

  • Seasonal asthma

People with seasonal asthma only develop symptoms during specific seasons. This can be once a year or a few times in a year. For example, during winter months and hay fever season.

  • Occupational asthma

Symptoms are developed in the workplace or while working. It may ease off and improve when one is out of the working environment. Occupational asthma may greatly affect people who work in sectors such as paint chemicals, aerosols and other harmful substances.

  • Exercised induced asthma

Exercise induced asthma happens when the symptoms happen during or after exercise. It can also happen during or after any strenuous activities.

  • Severe asthma

Someone is considered to have severe asthma when standard medications do not improve the symptoms, according to experts.

What are the signs of asthma?

  • Airway blockage

When you breathe as usual, your airways are relaxed which allows the air to move freely. But when you have asthma, the muscles in your airways tighten. This makes it harder for air to pass through.

  • Airway irritability

Those with asthma tend to have sensitive airways that can worsen and narrow when they are exposed to even slight triggers.

  • Inflammation

Red and swollen bronchial tubes in your lungs are a result of asthma. In the long run, this inflammation can damage your lungs.

Due to these signs, you may experience coughs that are active at night or in the morning, wheezing where a whistling sound is produced when you breathe, shortness of breath, tightness, pain, or pressure in your chest. Experiencing these symptoms puts you in a restless situation in which it can cause sleeping difficulties.

What is an asthma attack?

During an asthma attack, the airways become swollen and inflamed. This is because the muscles around the airways contract and extra mucus is produced. Thus causing the breathing passage or bronchial tubes to narrow. Asthma attacks can take place when the airways are triggered to tighten.

Symptoms of an asthma attack

  • Blue lips or fingernails.
  • Feeling of pain or pressure in the chest.
  • Very rapid breathing.
  • Severe wheezing when breathing in and out.
  • Coughs that are difficult to stop. Experiencing feelings of distress (Example, anxiety or panic).
  • Tightening of neck and chest muscles (Known as retractions).
  • Struggling to speak. Pale and sweaty face.

It should be noted that not all asthmatic people experience the same symptoms and to the same degree. It varies from one person to another. These symptoms can also vary during asthma attacks ranging from mild to severe.

What triggers asthma attacks?

  • Smoke.
  • Heartburn.
  • Allergies (This also includes windborne pollen from grasses, weeds and trees).
  • Food and additives.
  • Exercise.
  • Smoking.
  • Sinusitis.
  • Weather (Cold weathers, thunderstorms and hot weather that has high amounts of pollutants and pollen in the air).
  • Medications.

Causes of asthma

Since asthma affects many to a varying degree, it’s difficult to accurately pinpoint the causes of it. However, there are various different factors that have been linked to an increased risk of developing asthma.

  • Genetics

You’re more likely to have asthma if a close relative has it such as a parent or a sibling.

  • Early exposure to elements that affect lung development

These elements include exposure to tobacco smoke, other forms of air pollution and viral respiratory infections. Parents should be vary when smoking around their children.

  • Overweight children and adults

Obese or overweight children and adults possess a greater risk of experiencing asthma.

  • Allergies

Asthma has been found to more likely affect people who struggle with other allergic conditions such as eczema and rhinitis (hay fever).

  • Environmental allergens and irritants

This exposure includes indoor and outdoor air pollution, dust mites at home, dust molds, and exposure to chemicals or fumes at the workplace.

Managing asthma is possible when we understand a little more about the symptoms and the triggers. Whilst it’s a chronic disease, it’s still possible for us to take the necessary steps to manage it in our day-to-day lives. If you’re struggling with asthma, keeping yourself informed may just help save your life.

Sources: WebMD, World Health Organization, Healthline, Medical News Today