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Asthma is a chronic respiratory ailment that can be quite debilitating and even life-threatening if not managed properly.
It is characterized by airway hyperresponsiveness, which means that your respiratory passages become extremely sensitive to any inhaled allergen.
When you breathe in an irritant, an inflammatory response is triggered in the respiratory tract, which causes your airways to swell up and produce extra mucus. Consequently, the flow of oxygen is constricted, leading to the classic symptoms of shortness of breath, chest pain, cough, and wheezing.
It is important to identify the triggers in order to avoid them and improve the symptoms.
Given that asthma can develop at any age, seek prompt medical care if you experience the classic symptoms of asthma (shortness of breath, cough, and wheezing) or a cold that is longer than 10 days, which can be the first indication of asthma.
With appropriate therapy and avoidance of triggers, asthma is typically well-controlled, allowing patients to lead normal lives.
In an acute asthma exacerbation, seek medical attention immediately as the signs and symptoms may worsen and can even be potentially fatal.
Can a person develop asthma suddenly?
Yes, asthma can develop at any point during one’s life. During an asthma attack, the inner lining of the respiratory airways becomes inflamed, which constricts the space through which air can pass. There may be increased sputum production as well, which further blocks air movement, leading to the classic symptoms of asthma.
The classic symptoms of asthma include shortness of breath, cough, and wheezing.
Because these symptoms are nonspecific, asthma can be difficult to diagnose. Many patients may only develop these symptoms when exposed to certain triggers, whereas others may have symptoms without any triggers.
Asthma can develop in childhood, adolescence, and adulthood. This can create some confusion, as older patients commonly experience symptoms of asthma but delay seeking care because they never had asthma as a child.
Asthma can develop slowly with symptoms of shortness of breath, cough, and chest tightness over months to years, or it may develop rapidly and suddenly, with or without any exposures.
It is very common for asthma to have a late-onset or resurgence in patients who are older than 65 years of age. This typically happens in patients who had some symptoms as a child only to develop a full-fledged asthma problem in the later stage of their life. Less commonly, the condition can also occur in elderly patients with no former history of asthma symptoms.
Diagnosing asthma in older patients can be tricky, as symptoms like shortness of breath can be mistaken for other more alarming disease processes, such as COPD and heart failure. This can leave the patient unnecessarily worked up until a diagnosis of asthma is made.
Diagnosis can also be difficult in patients with intermittent symptoms as, in between the occurrence of symptoms, pulmonary function tests and labs may be normal.
What are the recommended steps to ease an asthma attack when one does not have an inhaler?
Treating an asthma attack without an inhaler is very difficult, and one should seek expert medical attention immediately in an asthma attack. The goal of therapy when one has an asthma attack is to open the airways to allow for better air movement.
During an asthma attack, the patient should try to remove the trigger (i.e., dust, pollen, cold air), stop any form of exercise, and try to breathe slowly in order to prevent any further irritation. Big, long, and slow breaths help to prevent hyperventilation and allow for better air movement.
Preventing panic is also important in order to not hyperventilate. Sitting upright helps with improving air movement.
Caffeine from tea or coffee has also been shown to reduce airway inflammation and help asthma symptoms potentially. Therefore, a warm caffeinated beverage may also help reduce airway hyperresponsiveness and symptoms.
These steps can help improve air movement while on the way to seek medical attention.
Is a mixture of banana and honey helpful in treating the symptoms of asthma?
Many studies have suggested that honey has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. (1)(2) Studies have shown that taking honey at night may reduce airway inflammation (3) and therefore improve asthma symptoms or reduce the frequency of asthma attacks.
More studies are needed before the use of honey for asthma can be recommended for everyone. But all things considered, honey seems to exert positive effects on airway inflammation and asthma with minimal side effects.
Therefore, although honey cannot be used as a supplement to the therapy and treatment of asthma, it may help reduce the need for medications (rescue inhalers) and help reduce attacks and symptoms.
Honey can typically be mixed with a hot beverage to help improve air movement and airway bronchoconstriction.
Similarly, banana contains a high amount of potassium and has anti-inflammatory properties.
The European Respiratory Society stated that consuming a banana daily may help control asthma symptoms and reduce exacerbations. (6) Banana can help prevent the daily need for rescue inhalers or reduce the symptoms of asthma due to its high antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.
Bananas are unlikely to cause any side effects which makes them safe for regular consumption.
Note: Honey and banana cannot help with an acute exacerbation. However, both can help reduce airway inflammation and better control symptoms, along with other medications.
Does dehydration aggravate the symptoms of asthma?
Dehydration has many negative health effects, and one of them is the worsening of asthma symptoms. It is believed that dehydration leads to an increase in histamine release, which can cause more airway irritation and bronchospasm and therefore can worsen asthma symptoms.
A cough is your body’s way to expel the mucus, and proper hydration helps to water down these secretions so that they can be easily coughed out. Dehydration on the other hand can make your mucus less fluid and harder to expel through coughing.
Therefore, patients with asthma should always stay hydrated, especially when exercising and when going to a high altitude as these activities can worsen dehydration.
Patients with asthma should typically drink 10 eight-ounce cups of water daily in order to help control asthma symptoms and prevent exacerbations.
Do warm water baths help in soothing asthma symptoms?
Warm water baths may be helpful to some asthma patients.
Warm air may soothe the airways and may cause an improvement in asthma symptoms, especially in cases triggered by cold air or exercise. The warm air from the hot bath helps soothe the airways, allows for more humidified air entry, and prevents the trigger from causing constriction to reduce the severity of the attack.
Note: It should be noted that very hot baths and hot steam may actually worsen the symptoms in some asthmatic patients. Therefore, this alternative therapy should only be used with caution and not for too long a period.
Is it possible for asthma to worsen with age?
Yes, asthma tends to worsen as one gets older progressively. Remember that asthma may develop in any age group and very commonly develops in the older age group (>65 years) without any symptoms or with only mild symptoms in the past.
Asthma may be undertreated and, therefore, may get worse with age. A patient with undertreated or inappropriately treated asthma will typically have worsening of symptoms with increasing age.
Among those who received appropriate treatment, 25% will experience worsening of asthma symptoms with age.
If you are on the appropriate treatment for asthma and suddenly your symptoms are getting worse, the reason may be your increasing age. Seek medical attention so your medications can be adjusted to keep the condition from deteriorating any further.
Pregnancy may also worsen asthma symptoms. Thus, patients who are pregnant should be cautious and aware of this possibility, so their inhalers and medications are properly adjusted.
What are the first signs of asthma in children?
Asthma diagnosis in children can be difficult. Parents need to be aware of the symptoms so that an accurate and timely diagnosis can be made.
The typical symptoms in children include cough, chest tightness or pain, and shortness of breath. The symptoms to look for are sudden coughing or wheezing (high-pitched whistling noise) or shortness of breath. The condition may also present as a cold that lasts over a week, often with a cough that may persist longer than ten days.
It is important to look for triggers, such as worsening of the cough, wheezing, and shortness of breath, at certain times of the year (fall or spring or winter), during certain activities (exercise or when playing in the park), or with exposure to certain things (dog, dust, cat, tobacco).
These symptoms can occur at any time during the day or night, but you need to be more alert during the night when the child is asleep. If you notice any of the above-mentioned symptoms, seek immediate medical care so that asthma diagnosis can be made and the treatment initiated as soon as possible.