Asthma is a chronic respiratory disorder affecting the lungs which promote conditions like difficulty breathing, wheezing, shortness of breath, etc. This ongoing condition is caused by inflammation of the airways that allow the lung to circulate air in and out of the body.
The primary cause for this occurrence is due to particular irritants or external agents that enter the airway through our nose or mouth and reacts with the airways, causing allergy-like symptoms like irritation and inflammation. The swelling, along with an extra layer of mucus secretion by the airway linings, in turn, narrows down space within the airways promoting symptoms like the ones mentioned above.
Asthma is chronic in nature, but not persistent. This condition is often triggered by external elements such as dust, air pollution, or certain irritants like strong perfume or musky smells, and can even be seasonal in nature- where a particular weather condition may trigger your asthma and cause health complications only for that time span.
There are innumerable types of asthma that are documented, and researchers are continuing with the hunt for more. Asthma, heavily dependent on external causes, hence has a diverse effect on patients.
· The most common asthma form is Bronchial Asthma where the condition primarily affects the bronchi in the lungs.
· Asthma mostly affects children and hence one form of asthma has been termed money induced asthma.
· Sometimes adults too can be diagnosed with asthma, especially after age 20. This condition is termed adult-onset asthma.
Coming back to the different asthma types, you would often come across multiple kinds, such as
· Allergic asthma and non-allergic asthma
‘Triggers’ as they are called, are in most cases responsible for the onset of asthma. The Allergic asthma is primarily caused by external elements that you might have an allergy too, for example, certain perfume aroma, animal dander, dust, pollens etc. The external agent enters the body and on reacting causes inflammation of the air passages.
On the other hand, Non-allergic asthma is often caused by chest infections or heavy mucus build-up in the chest. These type of asthma is not connected to allergies at all.
· Aspirin-induced asthma
This one of the first identified asthma types, where patients taking aspirin or NSAIDs experienced asthma episodes right after, leading to believe that aspirins and other course pain-killers can act as a trigger. Common signs of aspirin-influenced asthma can be in the form of nasal polyps or ongoing sinus infection.
· Exercise-induced asthma
Asthma triggered by exercise occurs when the air passages contract or narrow down due to physical exertion or activity, resulting in all or either of the common asthma symptoms. The effect, however, varies from person to person and can be mild or moderate in nature. Extreme weather conditions, chlorine pools, suffocating workout spaces, or allergens in the air can be the cause of exercise-induced asthma.
· Nocturnal asthma
Almost 75% of asthma patients reported feeling discomfort or asthma-induced symptoms at night, often to the point, where they may experience insomnia. This condition is known as ‘nighttime asthma’ or nocturnal asthma. The primary cause for it, according to the doctors, is because of fluctuating lung functions.
· Occupational asthma
Exposure to certain external agents or allergens at work can often cause asthma symptoms to get triggered. This is more common in labors or factory-workers since they are exposed to a wide variety of fumes or elements in the due course of their work. Occupational asthma, however, occurs when existing asthma conditions get worse due to the exposure in a work setting.
· Cough variant asthma or CVA
This asthma type is more likely to affect children than adults, and are primarily influenced by coughs- the dry kind that usually increases in the nights. This is a mild variety of asthma.
Not everyone will experience the same scope or intensity of the symptoms. Often, early signs or symptoms of asthma can be enough for you to understand, for instance, nasal flaring, anxiety, irritability, repeated infection of the airways and nasal passage, quick breathlessness, or severe coughing too can be deemed as early asthma symptoms.
Though rare you can also feel these symptoms in severe cases-
· Discoloring of lips, face, or nails (greying or bluish)
· Heart palpitations
· High fever
· Chest pain
· Confusion or loss of focus
Asthma in children
Asthma symptoms can start showing up as early as age 5 and can last throughout infancy and childhood. The symptoms more or less remain the same, possibly with a slight shift in subsidiary symptoms, like:
- Change of crying pattern or style in babies
- Repetitive chest colds
- Difficulty in eating or swallowing
- Repeatedly feeling ill or sick around certain elements or pets
How to classify asthma?
There are different methods to classify asthma type and manner. The most prominent of them are:
· Proper allergy tests
· Lung and tissue characteristics
· Past lung or breathing disorders
· Cell types involved in inflammation
Based on the frequency and intensity of the symptoms, asthma can be classified into four basic stages/ categories.
· Mild Intermittent
· Mild Persistent
· Moderate Persistent
· Severe Persistent
Doctors can measure the frequency or intensity of the attack using objective measures like Spirometry results or peak flow measurements
The diagnosis is directly based on symptoms felt or on lung function tests. It is essential for you to share your past medical records, allergies, and conditions at your diagnostic center or to your doctor. The usual diagnostic measures include:
The first and foremost preventive measure is to find out what triggers your asthma and how or what helps you relieve it. You can either do this alone or seek medical assistance to figure out the type or intensity of your asthmatic condition. The next step is to increase awareness around your circle so they can act accordingly when you’re around.
Prevention is possible through on-time medication and self-care which includes wearing a mask when on the road, cleaning your house and linens carefully, quitting smoking, carrying an inhaler with you everywhere and keeping it handy etc. Schedule an appointment with your doctor and have a detailed conversation on all the preventive measures that might help you.
Emergency Home Care for Asthma attack
Try following these asthma care tips when at home to avoid succumbing to asthma attacks.
· Run outdoor, to a balcony or backyard
· Drink warm coffee to relieve sudden asthma attacks
· Remain sitting upright during your asthma episode
· Massage warm mustard seed oil and salt mixture to your chest
· Try to take slow but deep breaths instead of giving in to panic