Managing Asthma: Know Your Treatment Options

 Asthma is a highly manageable disease

The first step to managing asthma symptoms is learning to manage and avoid triggers. This involves recognising triggers and tracking signs and symptoms that are influenced by your daily activities and lifestyle habits. Consequently, this gives you control of your condition and prevents your symptoms from worsening. As much as you may try to avoid triggering your asthma symptoms, at times you may need some treatments to help control your symptoms.

Be as it may, the right medication is determined based on a range of factors including:

  • Age.
  • Symptoms.
  • Triggers.
  • Response to the drugs.

Knowing what medications work best for you will ensure a healthy lifestyle. Read on to learn more about the various treatments available for asthma and some interesting ways you can improve lung health.

Before all else, is asthma curable? Let’s find out!

Is there a cure for asthma?

As much as we hope there is a cure, unfortunately asthma isn’t a curable disease at the moment. According to the National Health Service (NHS), currently there is no cure for asthma. However, there are a number of treatment options available that can help control the symptoms concurrently and allow you to carry out a normal and active lifestyle.

In spite of that, being aware of your asthma severity smoothens the process of managing it well.

Asthma can be quite mild, requiring little to no treatments. However, some may have a more severe asthma attack which could be life threatening.

Classification of asthma severity

Asthma can be quite mild, requiring little to no treatments. However, some may have a more severe asthma attack which could be life- threatening. Ideally, the severity of asthma is categorised according to its symptoms and patterns. Medical professionals rank asthma into four types, ranging from mild to severe. The different types include:

  • MILD INTERMITTENT ASTHMA

Someone is considered in the mild intermittent asthma category when they experience mild symptoms less than twice a week. Whereas for night-time symptoms, it’s less than twice a month. They also experience fewer asthma attacks.

  • MILD PERSISTENT ASTHMA

Those who are in the mild persistent asthma category, they experience symptoms three to six times a week. As for the night-time symptoms, it’s three to four times a month. In this category, the asthma attacks may cause some disruption in activities.

  • MODERATE PERSISTENT ASTHMA

People in this category suffer from daily asthma symptoms with night time attacks of five or more times in a month. These symptoms can also cause some disruption in activities.

  • SEVERE PERSISTENT ASTHMA

Those who are in this category suffer ongoing symptoms in the day and night. Due to the persistent symptoms, activities they can partake in is limited.

Types of asthma medications

The two main goals of asthma treatments are long-term control and short-term symptom relief. The treatments can only be carried out after knowing the severity of your condition. Some of the asthma medications that your doctor may prescribe to you as part of your asthma treatment plan are as mentioned:

Long-term control medicines include:

1. Corticosteroids inhaler

An Inhaler is a portable device in a J-shape that contains corticosteroids to control swelling and irritation in your airways. It can help to relieve symptoms when they occur as well as stop

them from developing. These inhalers are for daily or seasonal use.

2. Long-acting beta2 agonists (LABAs)

LABAs are bronchodilators (a drug that widens the bronchi) and are used along with an inhalable corticosteroid to control precise reactions. These medications work quickly and can

provide relief for up to 12 hours.

3. Leukotriene receptor antagonists (LTRAs)

LTRAs are considered as anti-inflammatory drugs that come in tablet, syrup and powder forms. Leukotriene modifiers work by blocking the action of leukotrienes (inflammatory chemicals the body releases after coming in contact with allergy triggers).

4. Theophylline

Theophylline helps to open the airways and treat wheezing, shortness of breath and chest tightness caused by lung conditions such as chronic bronchitis, emphysema, as well as asthma.

5. Quick-Relief Medicines

On the other hand, quick-relief medicines are meant to work fast to relieve asthma symptoms when they flare up. Such medications are taken as soon as you notice symptoms and more importantly, according to your doctor’s instructions.

Some common quick-relief medicines include:

  • Inhaled short-acting beta2-agonists (SABAs).
  • Ipratropium.
  • Oral or intravenous corticosteroids (used to relieve airway inflammation caused by severe asthma).

Note: It is advisable to carry your quick-relief medicine with you everywhere you go as asthma attacks are unpredictable.

Asthma inhalers are the most common treatment options and they are portable. It is an effective method of delivering the medication to your lungs.

Difference between inhalers and nebulisers

Asthma inhalers are the most common treatment options and they are portable. It is an effective method of delivering the medication to your lungs. On the other hand, if using an inhaler isn’t reducing your symptoms, you might need to use a nebuliser instead. 

A nebuliser is a machine that changes the medication from liquid to mist so that medicine gets into your lungs easily. However, using nebulisers may take some extra time to relieve asthma symptoms compared to an inhaler.

Get active despite having asthma

Having asthma should not limit you from performing physical activities and regular exercise. As a matter of fact, there are quite a number of activities that benefit asthmatics and help to improve lung health. The key is to do the right kind and amount of exercise appropriately without straining yourself too much. 

Some great exercise and activities you may want to consider includes:

  • Breathing exercises
  • Hiking
  • Volleyball
  • Walking
  • Gymnastics
  • Football
  • Swimming
  • Baseball
  • Golf

Can exercise stop asthma symptoms?

Exercise does not stop or cure asthma, but it can reduce your symptoms by making your lungs stronger. Physical activities can help minimise symptoms for many reasons such as:

  • Increase endurance as it helps your airways build up tolerance to exercise. This makes it easier for your lungs to perform activities that usually tire you out, for instance walking up a flight of stairs.
  • Though asthma inflames the airways, regular exercise can decrease inflammation.
  • Regular exercise also allows your lungs to get used to consuming oxygen. Hence, it reduces the amount of effort your body puts in order to breathe well.

In general, carrying out physical activities improves blood flow and delivers a sufficient amount of oxygen to the entire body.

When to seek emergency help

While most people with asthma are able to manage their symptoms well, there are still a number of individuals who require medical attention every now and then. Speak to your doctor or seek emergency help when:

  • Your medication isn’t easing your asthma attack symptoms.
  • You have trouble speaking while walking because you’re out of breath.
  • You have blue lips or fingernails (Cyanosis). This may be due to the lack of oxygen in your blood or you may have poor blood circulation.

The takeaway

Educating yourself about your asthma condition, regardless of the severity is necessary in keeping the symptoms at bay. Discuss with your healthcare professional to come up with an asthma action plan that suits you. On top of that, be sure to follow the steps instructed by your healthcare professional in the event of an asthma attack.

Sources: Healthline, NHS, Temple Health