Asthma – Symptoms, causes, and how to manage it

Asthma – Symptoms, causes, and how to manage it

Asthma is one of the most prevalent respiratory illnesses globally. According to the WHO, it affected an estimated 262 million in 2019. The severity of the disease, however, varies from person to person. It’s a minor issue for some while being a major sickness for others; in rare cases, asthma has also been fatal. This article discusses the ailment’s causes and symptoms and how one can manage it with treatments, home remedies, and nutrition.

Symptoms
The common signs and symptoms of this disease include:

Shortness of breath
While shortness of breath could result from various illnesses, including bronchitis, hay fever, or acid reflux, it’s one of the telltale signs of asthma. Shortness of breath could, in turn, lead to trouble sleeping at night.

Chest tightness or pain
Asthma can cause inflammation in the airways, leading to chest tightness or pain. The tightness usually occurs during exposure to irritants, signaling the start of an asthma attack.

Extreme tiredness
Shortness of breath, coughing, and chest tightness, when severe, can lower the amount of oxygen in the blood, leading to fatigue. Patients, therefore, notice their condition aggravating quickly during physical activity.

In addition to the above, one may also experience changes in lung function, wheezing, and frequent cold, cough, and sneezing.

Causes
A combination of environmental and genetic factors can cause asthma:

Exposure to irritants
Exposure to various irritants, including airborne allergens like pollen, pet dander, mold spores, and dust, can trigger asthma. Therefore, patients must avoid going to areas that attract dust and stay away from pets if possible.

Weather changes
Studies suggest that storms or cold air can trigger asthma by causing the airways to narrow. Some individuals notice their symptoms worsen during particular times of the year.

Certain health conditions
Respiratory infections, such as the common cold, can lead to asthma. In addition, conditions like gastroesophageal reflux disease, eczema, and rhinitis can have similar effects.

Specific treatments
Beta-blockers, NSAIDs, aspirin, and certain other options to treat underlying health conditions can trigger asthma. Sulfites and preservatives can also contribute to the ailment.

Treatment
While asthma cannot be cured, individuals can manage the symptoms effectively using the following:

Short-term relief options
Rescue inhalers, short-acting beta-agonists, anticholinergics, and oral corticosteroids can provide quick relief. One can use a combination of these for best results after consulting with a doctor.

Long-term options
Long-term preventives include inhaled corticosteroids, inhaled long-acting beta-agonists, leukotriene modifiers, cromolyn, theophylline, and corticosteroids. Again, these must be used only under a doctor’s supervision.

Besides the above, nebulizers are a popular asthma treatment, especially for children.

Home remedies
Some natural remedies can help control the symptoms of this condition:

Breathing techniques
Asthma breathing techniques train patients to breathe from their nose instead of their mouth. Breathing from the mouth can dry out the airways and make them more sensitive.

Yoga
It includes stretching and breathing exercises that can help boost flexibility and increase overall fitness. Yoga also decreases stress levels—a lesser-known asthma trigger.

Practice mindfulness
Practicing mindfulness boosts overall fitness, increases flexibility, and improves focus on the mind and body. Focusing on breathing and eliminating stress can help tackle the ailment.

Steam baths
Steam baths can reduce chest congestion, soothe the airways, and help get rid of mucus. Steam baths also allow patients to breathe freely, offering relief.

What to eat
Since asthma weakens immunity, one should eat healthily.

Garlic
Garlic has several health benefits. Thanks to its anti-inflammatory properties, it can counter inflammation in the airways and, thus, prevent asthma flare-ups.

Honey
Honey is a cold remedy that helps soothe the throat and reduce coughing. One can mix honey with a hot beverage for relief.

Caffeine
Caffeine helps reduce respiratory muscle fatigue and improves the function of the airways for a few hours after consumption.

Ginger
Another herb with excellent anti-inflammatory properties, ginger helps improve overall lung function.

Turmeric
An allergic reaction can worsen the symptoms of asthma. Turmeric, being a strong anti-allergen, can help prevent asthma attacks.

Although asthma isn’t a severe disease, it can become life-threatening if not managed in time. Therefore, individuals must take necessary measures.