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Asthma is a chronic respiratory ailment that can be quite debilitating and even life-threatening if not managed properly.
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.
When Does Asthma Develop?
Asthma can develop at any point during one’s life, in childhood, adolescence, and adulthood.
Asthma can start slowly with symptoms of shortness of breath, cough, and chest tightness over months to years. Because these symptoms are nonspecific, asthma can be difficult to diagnose.
Asthma may also have a rapid and sudden onset, with or without any exposure. It is very common for asthma to have a late-onset or resurgence in patients who are older than 65 years of age. (1)
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.
Steps to Ease an Asthma Attack
Treating an asthma attack without an inhaler is very difficult. However, in the absence of an inhaler, you can follow these steps on the way to seek medical attention:
- 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 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. (2) Therefore, a warm caffeinated beverage may also help reduce airway hyperresponsiveness and symptoms.
Tips for Symptomatic Relief
It has been seen that the use of honey, banana, and warm baths can help improve the symptoms of asthma.
Many studies have suggested that honey has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. (3)(4) The intake of honey at night may help reduce airway inflammation (5) and therefore improve asthma symptoms or reduce the frequency of asthma attacks. (6)(7)
However, more studies are needed before the use of honey for asthma can be recommended for everyone.
How to use: Honey can typically be mixed with a hot beverage to help improve air movement and airway bronchoconstriction.
Bananas contain high amounts of potassium and have anti-inflammatory properties.
The European Respiratory Society stated that consuming a banana daily may help control asthma symptoms and reduce exacerbations. (8)
Bananas 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, making 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.
3. Warm water baths
Warm water baths may be helpful to some patients with asthma. 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 also allows for more humidified air entry and prevents the trigger from causing constriction to reduce the severity of the attack.
Note: 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.
Signs of Asthma in Children
Asthma diagnosis in children can be difficult. The typical symptoms in children include:
- Chest tightness or pain
- Shortness of breath
- Sudden wheezing (high-pitched whistling noise)
The condition may also present as a cold that lasts over a week, often with a cough that may persist longer than 10 days.
It is important to look for these triggers at certain times of the year (fall, spring, or winter), during certain activities (when exercising or playing in the park), or with exposure to certain things (dog, dust, cat, tobacco smoke).
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 an asthma diagnosis can be made and treatment initiated as soon as possible.
Risk Factors for Asthma Attacks
The following factors can trigger an asthma attack:
Moreover, dehydration 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 high-altitude laces, as these activities can worsen dehydration.
Asthma tends to worsen with age. A patient with undertreated or inappropriately treated asthma will typically have worsening of symptoms with increasing age. (11)
Among those who received appropriate treatment, 25% will experience worsening of asthma symptoms with age. Seek medical attention so your medications can be adjusted to keep the condition from deteriorating any further.
Pregnancy may also worsen asthma symptoms. (12) Thus, patients who are pregnant should be cautious and aware of this possibility, so their inhalers and medications are properly adjusted.
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). While asthma is incurable, appropriate therapy and avoidance of triggers can help control asthma, allowing patients to lead normal lives.