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Signs and Symptoms of Asthma

Most people with asthma have warning signs before symptoms ever appear. T he warning signs are not the same for everyone. Even your own warning signs may differ from time to time. By learning what your warning signs are, you can start treatment sooner. This may keep you from having a serious asthma attack. Some of the warning signs of asthma or signs of an asthma attack are listed below.

• Abnormal Breathing – This includes breathing faster than normal, shortness of breath, or difficulty breathing.
• Persistent coughing – This coughing may be worse at night or early morning.
• Tightness in the chest.
• Fatigue, of a feeling of always being tired.
• Wheezing, head congestion, and/or scratchy or sore throat
• Rapid heartbeat.
• Head congestion

There are many things that can cause an asthma attack. Below are some of the most common triggers.

• Air pollution.
• Animals.
• Cold weather.
• Dust.
• Exercise.
• Foods.
• Lung infections.
• Molds.
• Pollens.
• Smoke.
• Stress.

Asthma is divided into 4 broad categories or “levels”

•Intermittent Level: This is the least serious level of asthma. A person is considered to be in this level when they exhibit asthma symptoms no more than 2 times a week and are not awakened at night with asthma symptoms more than twice a month. At this level, an asthma attack may last from a few hours to a few days, but there are no symptoms between asthma attacks. Between asthma attacks the peak expiratory flow or "PEF" is normal or varies less than 20%. The PEF is a measure of airflow to your lungs. A peak flow meter is used to get a PEF reading.

•Mild persistent: A person at this level has asthma symptoms more than 2 times a week but not on a daily basis, and will have nighttime asthma symptoms more than twice monthly. At this level, asthma attacks may slow daily activities. The PEF reading will vary by 20% to 30%.

•Moderate persistent: A person at this level has asthma symptoms every day and has nighttime asthma symptoms about once a week. Asthma attacks may occur at least 2 times a week and last for several days. At this stage, a person will use a short-acting inhaled asthma medicine every day. Asthma attacks do not just slow down daily activities but may actually prevent some of them. The PEF reading may vary by more than 30%.

•Severe persistent: This is the most serious level of asthma. A person at this level displays asthma symptoms all the time both day and night. Asthma symptoms severely limit a person's physical activity, and asthma attacks are common

You and your doctor will develop a plan to treat your asthma. Depending on the severity of your condition, you may or may not need medication to control your asthma. Generally, asthma medicines fall into 2 categories; long term control and quick relief medicines

1) Long-term control medicines are taken every day to control persistent asthma by decreasing inflammation in the airways. This group of medicines keeps airway swelling from starting.. This medicine is put into an inhaler through which you breathe.

2) Quick-relief medicines are taken to quickly open your airways and to treat symptoms such as cough, chest tightness, wheezing, or shortness of breath. This class of medicine is known as bronchodilators. Bronchodilators relax muscles that have tightened around the airways. Once these muscles relax, the airways open to help you breathe easier.

In summary, educating yourself is crucial. You need to learn to watch for signs that your asthma is worsening as well as what to do to stop an asthma attack. You can usually care for yourself at home during an asthma attack. However, if your breathing does not improve with medicine or treatments, you should contact your doctor as alternative treatments may be necessary.

If you have asthma, you may feel frightened or anxious. Some people blame themselves and think they have done something wrong. These are normal feelings and should be discussed with your doctor or with someone close to you. Ask your doctor about support groups for people with asthma. Such a group can give you support and information Call or write the following groups for more information:

American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology
611 East Wells Street
Milwaukee, WI 53202
Phone: 1-800-822-ASMA
Web Address: http://www.aaaai.org

American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology
85 West Algonquin Road, Suite 550
Arlington Heights, IL 60005
Phone: 1-800-842-7777
Web Address: http://allergy.mcg.edu

Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America
1233 20th Street NW, Suite 402
Washington,, DC 20036
Phone: 1-800-727-8462
Web Address: http://aafa.org

National Asthma Education and Prevention Program
National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute
National Asthma Education and Prevention Program
P.O. Box 30105
Bethesda, MD 20824-0105
Phone: 1-301-592-8573
Web Address: http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/infoctr/index.htm

 

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