Learn about conventional and natural asthma treatment, most common asthma triggers, the four NIH categories of the disease, and how to recognize an asthma attack.
Asthma is a serious disorder in which the airway becomes inflamed, resulting in wheezing, loss of breath, and tightness in the chest. There are approximately 15 million people in the U.S. who suffer with asthma, and there are more than half a million hospitalizations resulting from this disorder. Sadly, more than 5,000 people die each year from this condition.
The prevalence of asthma has been increasing for every age group affected. The child category, however, is the age group with the highest increase; over the last ten years, the rate of asthma in children has increased by over 90%. Regarding race and socioeconomic class, asthma does not discriminate; it affects all races and social classes. However, it seems to more greatly affect children from poor families who live in or near cities.
What is an Asthma Attack?
During an asthma attack, the airway becomes constricted and breathing is labored and difficult. No one knows what causes asthma, but we do know that asthma attacks can be triggered or precipitated by exposure to certain substances. Of course, triggers are unique to individuals; whereas wood smoke may precipitate an attack for some, tree pollen may be the trigger for another.
Parents and those who work with children, such as teachers, need to know the signs that indicate a asthma attack is beginning. Children will exhibit severe coughing and wheezing, a tight feeling in the chest, and shortness of breath. Other indicators include a runny nose, difficulty exhaling, and vomiting.
A common sequence of events occurs during an asthma attack:
• a trigger irritates the airway
• muscles around the airway tighten or constrict
• the lungs become irritated and inflamed
• more mucous is produced by the airways
Symptoms vary between individuals and between asthma attacks. They also vary in severity, whereas one day you can experience some mild wheezing and another day your breathing can be seriously impaired to where it becomes life threatening.
Keep in mind that asthma symptoms can be precipitated by cold temperatures, or by strenuous exercise such as running or biking. Treatment from an experienced physician can definitely minimize the severity of your symptoms as well as the number of attacks you experience.
The most common asthma symptoms include the following:
• Shortness of Breath – You can feel as though you can not get sufficient air into your lungs, or out of your lungs as well
• Chest Tightness – You many feel as though there is a tremendous weight on your chest
• Wheezing – There can be a high pitched sound or a “whistling” sound when you try to breath. Wheezing can become more pronounced when you are close to an allergen or substance that irritates you
• Coughing – This can become worse when you try to sleep, or upon awakening. Coughing can become more pronounced when you are close to an allergen or substance that irritates you
• Increased rate of breathing – You may begin to breath more rapidly, while feeling you can’t catch your breath
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Triggers are substances that are known to precipitate attacks. For example, irritants such as cigarette smoke are a trigger for some individuals. Allergens such as pollen can bring on asthma attacks. In addition, emotions and stress are triggers that cause attacks in some people.
A more complete list of asthma triggers is as follows:
Substances that irritate
• cigarette smoke
• cleaning products
• wood smoke
• dust and dust mites
• pet dander
• latex products
• strong emotions
• infections of the respiratory system
• weather conditions
Conventional Asthma Treatment
Doctors typically prescribe two different categories of asthma medication: anti-inflammatory, which helps to reduce the swelling in the airways, and bronchodilators which relax muscles around the airways making it easier for patients to breathe. These medicines are available in different forms, such as inhalers, pills, and liquid.
Bronchodilators are beta-agonists used to relieve acute asthma symptoms. When this medication is inhaled, it immediately effects the muscles that ring the airways in the lungs. The airway becomes larger resulting in improved airflow. Inhaled medication such as this has an advantage in that the other parts of the body receive less medication, thus less risk of side-effects. The bronchodilator prescribed most often is albuterol (Proventil HFA, Proventil, and Ventolin).
These anti-inflammatory medicines reduce inflammation by mediating and reducing capillary leakage, edema, and inflammation of the cells. Corticosteroids are not appropriate for immediate treatment of acute symptoms such as wheezing. Conversely, they are for the long-term control of asthma and associated inflammation. Corticosteroids are often prescribed together with bronchodilators, thus providing immediate and long-term treatment.
Commonly prescribed inhaled corticosteroids include:
• Flovent (fluticasone)
• Aerobid M (flunisolide)
• Pulmicort (budesonide)
• Azmacort (triamcinolone)
• Vanceril DS (beclomethasone)
• Qvar (beclomethasone)
The National Institute of Health (NIH) has published guidelines for managing asthma and asthma treatment. The NIH divides asthma into four distinct categories based on the severity of asthma symptoms experienced by the patient. Depending on the category, recommended asthma medication consists of: beta-antagonist bronchodilators such as albuterol; inhaled steroids; cromolyn (Intal); theophylline; oral beta-agonist (Zomax); long-acting inhaled beta-agonist (Serevent).
The NIH categories are as follows:
Category 1 - Mild Intermittent: Mild asthma symptoms that occur less than twice a week and nocturnal wheezing and symptoms occurring less than twice a month. Regular medication is not required, and a bronchodilator is recommended during attacks.
Category 2 - Mild Persistent: Asthma symptoms that occur more than twice a week and nocturnal wheezing occurring more than twice a month. Inhaled steroids prescribed for regular use, and beta-agonist can also be prescribed.
Category 3 - Moderate Persistent: Daily asthma symptoms and nocturnal symptoms that occur each week. Medication involves extensive inhaled corticosteroids, with theophylline, oral beta-agonist, and long-acting inhaled beta-agonist utilized at physician’s discretion.
Category 4 - Severe Persistent: Involves continued symptoms and limited physical activity. All medications mentioned above can be used. Requires continued physician supervision.
Natural Asthma Treatment
Many cases of asthma have allergies as their underlying cause; allergies that irritate the airways of the lungs, making them hypersensitive. Due to the serious nature of asthma with its sometimes life-threatening issues, most patients choose medication to deal with their asthma and allergy symptoms. We are presenting below some excellent natural supplements for fighting the allergies that contribute to asthma. We preface this discussion by saying that the following supplements are meant for treating mild cases of asthma. Even with mild cases, we suggest you discuss any alternative asthma treatment plans with your physician.
Natural supplements for asthma
The Best Natural Supplements for Asthma Control
||improves lung function, decreases incidence of attacks
||1 to 2 grams daily
||helps heal gastrointestinal tract
||take for 3 months only; 20,000 IU 3x daily
||helps bronchial muscles relax
||500 mg 3x daily
||help decrease inflammation, adrenal support
||300 - 450 mg 3x daily
||500 mg 3x daily
||anti-inflammatory, helps absorb calcium
||400 IU 3 x daily for 3 months
||120 mg 3x daily