Is Your Asthma Out of Control?
From AAIA Newsletter, December 2000
All AAIA material is medically reviewed by a certified allergist.
Source: Allergy/Asthma Information Association
According to the Canadian Asthma Treatment Guidelines:
If you need your quick Reliever medication as little as:
- once a day or
- a couple of times per week,
Your asthma is probably out of control.
If you need your quick Reliever medication:
- a couple of times a month,
- or not at all
Your asthma is probably controlled.
This may sound surprising, even shocking, but it’s true. Up to 85% of people with asthma can live virtually symptom-free. Most of the other 15% can be greatly aided by learning to use their medications effectively.
Asthma is a disease of the lining of the airways, the breathing tubes – in the lungs. If you were to accidentally spill hot liquid onto your hand, it would look red, scalded, and swollen. In asthmatics, this is what the lining of the breathing tubes looks like – red, swollen and inflamed. This occurs, in most cases, because tiny airborne particles and irritants cling to the inside of the breathing tubes.
The following are typical asthma triggers that can cause inflammation:
- ALLERGENS such as pollen, dust mites, animals and mold
- VIRAL INFECTIONS
- IRRITANTS such as cigarette smoke, perfumes and other scented products, household cleaners and air pollutants.
Once the airways are inflamed, a series of asthma symptoms follow. Just as a scalded finger begins to secrete fluid, inflamed breathing tubes secrete mucous, which can lead to an asthmatic cough. But something else happens too. Surrounding the breathing tubes, there are ‘bands’ of muscles whose natural purpose is to contract and relax depending on physical activity. When we breathe into inflamed tissue (which obviously cannot be avoided), the ‘bands’ of muscle contract more than they would if we didn’t have inflammation. They tense and tighten, squeezing the breathing tubes, so that less air can move in and out. Narrowing of the breathing tubes feels like shortness of breath, or breathing discomfort. It may also lead to a whistling (wheezing) noise as an asthmatic breathes.
When you feel breathing discomfort, this is when you feel the need for your Reliever. This medication works on the tightened muscles, and relaxes them. The breathing tubes open up, and breathing feels better. But the relief is only temporary, because inflammation is what caused the shortness of breath in the first place. The Reliever does nothing to treat inflammation.
The most important treatment of asthma is NOT your Reliever, but medication which treats inflammation. When you take an anti-inflammatory drug, you will likely stop feeling the need for your Reliever. You may feel like you hardly have asthma at all because this drug will prevent your asthma symptoms from occurring. As an anti-inflammatory Preventer drug is used, the need for Reliever medication decreases. An anti-inflammatory Preventer drug gives more long-term relief, and more predictable health, putting you in control of your asthma.
If you answer YES to one or more of the following questions you should speak with your doctor about your asthma medications.
1. Do you have daytime symptoms more than 4 times per week?
2. Do you have more night-time symptoms more than once per week?
3. Is your physical activity affected by your asthma?
4. Do you have frequent asthma flare ups?
5. Do you miss work or school because of your asthma?
6. Do you need to use your Reliever more than 4 times per week other than for exercise?
After you have spoken with your doctor and you are using the correct medications, you will be confidently in control of your asthma!
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Consult your family physician or allergist for specific questions
This article courtesy of the Allergy/Asthma
Information Association at www.aaia.ca and the Calgary Allergy Network
web site at www.calgaryallergy.ca. May be reproduced for educational,
non-profit purposes with proper attribution.
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