Asthma is a reactive sensitivity of the airways. When something irritates the airways, and causes them to react, this results in 3 components:
- Airway muscles tighten and narrow;
- Swelling and inflammation in the tissue causing more narrowing;
- Mucous production causing obstruction.
When the airways react, they get narrower, and less air flows through the lung causing symptoms like wheezing (a whistling breath sound), coughing, chest tightness, and trouble breathing, especially at night and in the early morning.
What happens in your lungs when you have asthma?
It’s similar to what happens to your nose when you have a cold; your nasal passages swell and secrete mucus so that you have difficulty breathing through the clogged nose. With asthma, your airways also swell, secrete mucus, and clog, making it harder to breathe. This is called inflammation.
Signs And Symptoms
- Coughing, often worse at night or early in the morning, making it hard to sleep.
- Wheezing (whistling or squeaky breath sound)
- Chest tightness. This can feel like something is squeezing or sitting on the chest.
- Shortness of breath. Faster noisy breathing
Treatment of Asthma
Your doctor can work with you to decide about your treatment goals and what you need to do to control your asthma to achieve these goals. Asthma treatment includes:
- Working closely with your doctor to decide what your treatment goals are and learning how to meet those goals.
- Avoiding things that bring on your asthma symptoms or make your symptoms worse. Doing so can reduce the amount of medicine you need to control your asthma.
- Using asthma medicines. Allergy medicine and shots may also help control asthma in some people.
- Monitoring your asthma so that you can recognize when your symptoms are getting worse and respond quickly to prevent or stop an asthma attack.
- Develop an asthma action plan.
There are two main types of medicines for asthma:
- Quick-relief (rescue) medicines: taken at the first signs of symptoms for immediate relief.
- Everyone with asthma needs a quick-relief or "rescue" medicine to stop asthma symptoms before they get worse.
- Short-acting inhaled beta-agonists are the preferred quick-relief medicine. These medicines are bronchodilators. They act quickly to relax tightened muscles around the airways so that they can open up and allow more air to flow through.
- These meds should be taken upon the first signs of asthmatic symptoms, such as coughing, wheezing, chest tightness, or shortness of breath.
- Quick-relief inhalers should be carried at all times in case of an asthma attack.
- The doctor may recommend that quick-relief medicines be taken at other times as well, for example, before exercise.
- Long-term control medicines: taken every day, usually over long periods of time, to treat and prevent the underlying inflammation precipitating asthma attacks.
- The most effective, long-term control medicine for asthma is an inhaled corticosteriods because this medicine reduces the airway inflammation that makes asthma attacks more likely.
- Inhaled corticosteroids are the preferred medicine for controlling mild, moderate, and severe persistent asthma. They are generally safe when taken as directed by the doctor.
- In some cases, oral steroid tablets or liquid are used for short periods of time to bring asthma under control. The tablet or liquid form may also be used to control severe persistent asthma.
The full effects of these medicines are felt after taking them for a few weeks.
For more information, contact your Primary Care Provider or visit the web site
If you have other questions and would like to speak to a Fidelis Health Care Associate, please call 1-800-247-1441.
Fidelis Care Newsletter Articles on Asthma