What is Asthma? Asthma is a chronic inflammatory condition of the airways in the lungs. The airways become sensitive and can react to certain triggers, leading to symptoms like coughing, wheezing, chest tightness, and shortness of breath. These symptoms occur due to the narrowing of the airways and inflammation.
Importance of Asthma Management: Proper asthma management is crucial for maintaining good health. It involves taking medications to control asthma symptoms, treating related conditions like allergies, and leading a healthy lifestyle. Well-managed asthma allows individuals to enjoy an active and normal life.
Asthma Action Plans: Every person with asthma should have an asthma action plan. This plan outlines day-to-day management and provides guidance on what to do during an asthma flare-up or emergency. There is no standardized plan; it’s tailored to individual triggers, symptoms, and medications.
Common Asthma Triggers: Asthma can be triggered by various factors, including viral infections, cigarette smoke, allergens (such as pollen and dust mites), cold air, irritants (like pollution), weather changes, stress, and certain medications.
Types of Asthma Medication:
- Reliever Medication: Used for immediate relief during an asthma flare-up. It quickly opens the airways. Overuse may lead to side effects like tremors and a rapid heart rate.
- Preventer Medication: Reduces airway sensitivity and inflammation, reducing the risk of flare-ups. Typically, an inhaled corticosteroid. Usually safe with minimal side effects.
Inhaler Devices: Various inhaler devices are available, including metered-dose inhalers (MDIs), breath-activated inhalers (autohalers), dry-powder inhalers, and soft mist inhalers. Spacers can improve medication delivery, and they should be cleaned monthly.
Nebulisers: Nebulisers used to be common for asthma treatment, but research shows that inhalers with spacers are as effective and more convenient. Consult your doctor if you still use a nebuliser.
Taking Asthma Medication Effectively: To ensure effective medication usage:
- Follow your asthma action plan.
- Understand medication roles and side effects.
- Simplify medication regimes if possible.
- Ensure correct device usage and technique.
- Create reminders to take medication as prescribed.
Tips for Parents and Carers:
- Involve your child in their asthma management as they grow older.
- Link asthma management to their interests and goals.
- Inform schools and caregivers about your child’s asthma action plan.
Medications and Asthma Triggers: Some medications for other conditions can worsen asthma symptoms. Always inform healthcare providers if you have asthma before starting new medications, whether prescription or over-the-counter.
Asthma First Aid: If someone experiences an asthma flare-up:
- Sit them upright and reassure them.
- Give 4 separate puffs of reliever medication via a spacer, 4 breaths after each puff.
- Wait 4 minutes. If symptoms worsen, call emergency services.
- If symptoms improve, seek medical attention.
Remember, proper asthma management empowers individuals to lead fulfilling lives while effectively controlling asthma symptoms and minimizing flare-ups.