What is Asthma?
Asthma is difficulty breathing due to your airways swelling, narrowing, and producing extra mucus. This can cause coughing, wheezing, and shortness of breath. It can range in severity from a mild nuisance to a life-threatening condition. Different treatments and symptom awareness can make living with asthma a more manageable experience.
Any sort of breathing distress can be a warning sign of an impending asthma attack. Tightness or pain in the chest, shortness of breath, wheezing, or difficulty sleeping due to coughing and shortness of breath are all symptoms of an attack. Coughing and wheezing can also become more severe in the presence of a respiratory virus such as the common cold or influenza. Having to use a rescue inhaler more frequently is also a sign of a flare-up. Always call your doctor if you are having uncontrollable symptoms or if symptoms are not relieved by an increased use in your rescue inhaler.
Causes of Flare-ups
Often, asthma goes together with allergies which cause respiratory symptoms. Environmental allergens such as pet dander, pollen, and molds can cause people with allergies to have an asthma flare-up. Other people only have flare-ups when they are active for periods of time. This is called exercise-induced asthma. People can also have occupational asthma, which results in a flare-up due to certain chemicals, gasses, and dust in their immediate work space. Smoking and second-hand smoke can also cause asthma to flare.
Dealing with an Attack
Most people who have been diagnosed with asthma have their own individualized treatment plan. Depending on your age and symptoms, you may have a daily maintenance inhaler or prescription pill to take to keep chronic symptoms at bay. On top of a maintenance dose, a rescue inhaler will be prescribed for flare-ups. Those with intermittent asthma such as exercise-induced asthma usually will not have a daily maintenance inhaler or pill, but rather a rescue inhaler only. Using this inhaler prior to exercise or exposure to a known trigger will usually keep a flare-up from happening.
In the case of a severe flare-up, especially one that is not responding to an increased rescue inhaler, it is best to err on the side of caution and seek treatment at your nearest urgent care or emergency department. There you may receive a nebulizer treatment of aerosolized medication and be monitored for improvement over time.
Hampton Family Practice knows that managing asthma is a lifelong commitment. Our providers are dedicated to working with you to manage your care through all the stages of your life. If you or a family member are having symptoms associated with asthma, contact us at (757) 838-6335 for an appointment.