It is usually triggered by factors such as physical activity, house dust, air pollution, and cigarette smoke. Asthma is a disease that can be easily managed with the right treatment methods. Asthma, which, if left untreated, causes permanent damage to the lungs, can lead to many different undesirable conditions such as growth retardation, preterm birth, or preeclampsia (pregnancy poisoning).
What causes asthma?
The causes of asthma, which causes respiratory problems by causing redness, swelling, and narrowing of the airways, may differ from person to person. Some of the factors that cause asthma can be listed as follows:
- Having a family history of asthma
- Maternal smoking during pregnancy
- Maternal malnutrition during pregnancy
- Born with a low birth weight
- Exposure to allergens during infancy
- Having had a severe respiratory disease in infancy,
- Frequent exposure to heavy cigarette smoke
- Working in occupations exposed to dust and chemicals,
- Exposure to air pollution or exhaust fumes.
Asthma symptoms vary from person to person. You may rarely experience asthma attacks; your symptoms may only occur at certain times, for example, when exercising; or you may have symptoms all the time.
Asthma symptoms include:
- Shortness of breath
- Chest tightness or pain
- Wheezing when exhaling (more common in children)
- Trouble sleeping due to shortness of breath, coughing, or wheezing
- Attacks of coughing or wheezing worsened by a respiratory virus such as a cold or flu
Signs that your asthma is likely getting worse include:
- Asthma symptoms that become more frequent and bothersome
- Difficulty breathing
- Continuous use of the inhaler
For some people, asthma signs and symptoms flare up in certain situations:
- When the weather is cold and dry
- In the presence of substances such as chemical fumes, gases, or dust,
- Allergy-induced asthma (pet dander) is triggered by airborne substances such as pollen, mold spores, cockroach waste or skin particles, and dry saliva shed by pets
What is allergic asthma?
Allergic asthma, especially seen in the spring and summer seasons, is the most common type of asthma. Some of the allergens may cause symptoms such as sneezing and watery eyes in some people, while others may cause an asthma attackause symptoms such as sneezing and watery eyes in some people, while others may cause an asthma attack. Allergic rhinitis, which is more common in women but affects approximately 25% of the entire population, can lead to allergic asthma if left untreated.
In this disease, which causes symptoms similar to non-allergic asthma, allergic factors such as pollen, dust, mites, and animal dander trigger asthma. In other words, allergens entering the respiratory tract cause the immune system to overreact. As a result of this condition, which causes the muscles around the airways to contract, the airways become inflamed.
Since allergens are in almost every environment, the person needs to discover what the trigger is and take action accordingly. Pollen is one of the main causes of allergic asthma. Air pollution, cigarette smoke, chemical fumes, strong odors such as perfume, and skin rashes can also trigger allergic asthma. For those with allergic asthma, emergency medical help may be required if complaints such as tightness in the chest muscles, speech difficulties due to shortness of breath, severe shortness of breath, or wheezing occur.
What are the factors that trigger asthma?
Factors that have no effect on people without asthma can easily affect people with asthma. Therefore, it is extremely important to pay attention to the factors that trigger asthma.
House dust mites:
It is the most common allergen for asthmatics. Mites are creatures too small to be seen with the naked eye. They live in bedding, pillows, carpets, furry toys, and textile fibers. They need moist and warm environments to live. They feed on dead cells shed from the skin. Their feces, which become powdery after drying, cause allergies. The complaints of those with mite allergies increase in the spring and autumn months, usually in the morning.
To protect from mites;
- Especially in the bedroom, dusty items such as carpets, velvet fabric furniture or curtains, feathered toys, armchairs, books should be completely removed or reduced if possible.
- Leather or vinyl coatings should be preferred instead of fabric in furniture.
- Instead of cotton, wool, or feather bedding, duvets, and pillows, synthetic ones such as orlon or dacron should be preferred.
- Sheets and bedding should be washed once a week at 60 degrees or above.
- Special mite-proof mattress covers can be used. These covers should be wiped with a wet cloth every two weeks.
- Curtains, rugs, and clothes should be washed every two weeks at 60 degrees or above.
- Carpets should be cleaned at least once a week with a powerful vacuum cleaner.
- The patient should enter the cleaned room after at least 20 minutes; if he is cleaning himself, he should cover his mouth and nose with a mask or washcloth.
- Indoor humidity should be controlled. When the humidity in the air drops below 45%, the mites die.
- Rooms should be well ventilated.
- Steam machines and humidifiers should not be used.
- Acaricidal chemicals can be used for cleaning. However, these should not be administered by the patient himself.
Pollen causes seasonal asthma complaints. There may be discharge, itching, sneezing, watery eyes, tearing, and redness in the nose and nasal passages. Tree pollens cause complaints mostly in February–May, and grass pollens in May–June.
During the pollen season,
- The windows of cars and houses should be kept closed.
- The patient should not go out on the street as much as possible.
- If he can, he should use a mask.
- When you come home from outside, you should immediately change your clothes, wash your nose, and take a shower.
- Laundry should not be dried outside; pollen may stick to it.
Allergens found in the fur, hair, saliva, urine, and feces of cats and dogs can easily spread throughout the house. Cats have more allergenic effects than dogs. Even three months after the cat leaves the house, the allergen effect continues. Cockroaches are especially common in kitchens and live in recesses filled with food scraps.
The most effective way to prevent cat and dog allergies is to remove these animals from the house and not enter their environment.
If animals cannot be removed from the home, they should be bathed every week or fortnight, brushed outdoors daily, never brought into bedrooms, and vacuumed at least twice a week.
The only solution for cockroach allergies is to eliminate these creatures with pesticides. However, spraying should be done when the patient is not at home and should be well ventilated for at least 2 hours before entering the house.
- Fungi can grow in damp, dark, and cool basements and poorly ventilated areas such as bathrooms.
- Humidity should be reduced as much as possible, and the house should be ventilated frequently.
- Wood, old books, papers, fruit, and vegetables should not be kept in the house for a long time.
- Damp surfaces should be wiped frequently with bleach.
- Items with fungus growth on them should be removed from the house.
In cases where air pollution increases, unnecessary physical activities and going out should be avoided as much as possible. When it is very necessary, a short-acting bronchodilator recommended by the doctor should be used before going out. When it comes to air pollution, windows should be kept closed.
Asthmatic patients should not smoke and should not be in smoking environments. Stoves and fireplaces without flues should not be used, and the chimney should be cleaned frequently. While cooking, the smoke from the stove or oven should be removed with an aspirator, and the kitchen should be well ventilated. As far as possible, the asthmatic patient should not be exposed to coal, wood, or liquid fuel fumes, perfume, cleaning agents, frying, spray, paint, or polish odors.
Microbial respiratory diseases:
- Asthmatic patients suffer from microbial diseases of the respiratory tract more easily than normal, and these diseases can exacerbate asthmatic complaints.
- Asthmatics should avoid contact with people with respiratory tract infections.
- The influenza vaccine is recommended for asthmatic patients in September and October every year.
- During microbial diseases, it may be necessary to increase the dose of asthma medications or add new drugs.
- Asthma patients can be easily affected by adverse weather conditions. Therefore, it should not be exposed to the cold as much as possible. Avoid exercising in the cold.
The frequency of reflux in asthma patients is 35% to 90%. Reflux, which also causes persistent coughs, may be silent and may not cause any complaints in the patient. In this case, a persistent cough should be considered, and the presence of reflux should be investigated in the asthmatic patient.
Reflux is the reflux of stomach acid into the esophagus due to the malfunction of the valve mechanism that prevents the passage of stomach contents into the esophagus at the lower end of the esophagus. When stomach acid rises, it can cause contractions in the bronchi, asthma attacks, and chronic coughs, especially at night, in people with allergic asthma.
Short-acting airway expanders can be used before exercise. Exercise should not be restricted; on the contrary, sports should be done as much as the patient's body allows.
Possible Complications of Asthma
Possible complications of asthma include:
- Poor performance in sleep, work, and other activities
- Days away from work or school during asthma exacerbations
- Permanent narrowing of the tubes that carry air to your lungs (bronchial tubes), which affects how well you can breathe
- Emergency room visits and hospitalizations due to severe asthma attacks
- Side effects from long-term use of certain medications used to stabilize severe asthma
Proper treatment makes a big difference in preventing both short-term and long-term complications caused by asthma.
How is asthma diagnosed?
If asthma is suspected, your doctor will listen to your medical history and perform a physical examination. Some tests that may be ordered to clarify the diagnosis include:
This test basically helps to understand how narrow the bronchi are by measuring lung capacity and the amount of air inhaled. It is one of the important tests in the diagnosis of asthma.
It is used to detect changes in lung function.
It is a chest X-ray or computed tomography (CT) scan. If there are structural problems or infections accompanying asthma, it allows it to occur.
The drug methacholine is given to the patient by breathing in low doses and under control, and the sensitivity of the patient's bronchi to methacholine (whether it narrows with methacholine or not) is determined.
It is done with skin tests or blood tests. Considering that the substances that cause allergies in the patient may trigger asthma attacks, the necessary treatments are started.
In addition, your doctor may perform a spirometry test and a peak flow measurement test before and after giving bronchodilators (medicine that opens your airways) to the airways. The difference is helpful in diagnosing asthma.
How is asthma treated?
Asthma is a disease that can be easily controlled at an early stage, or, in other words, before it causes permanent damage to the lungs. Although it is not possible to completely cure asthma, there are treatment methods to reduce or completely eliminate asthma attacks. These types of treatment may differ according to the age of the person, their response to treatment, and the severity of the asthma experienced. The physician informs the patient about asthma triggers. Asthma is treated with medication.
While bronchial enlargement is provided with bronchodilator drugs, it is aimed at reducing the number of attacks with anti-inflammatory drugs. Biological agents can be used in resistant cases. It is extremely important to use asthma medications at the dose and time determined by the physician. During the use of inhaled drugs, it is necessary to take a full breath and hold the breath for a while. The air in the lungs must be completely evacuated before reuse.
Asthma is an important health problem that can cause permanent damage to the lungs. Asthma can have complications such as fatigue, stress, anxiety, depression, learning problems, pneumonia, respiratory failure, and partial or complete collapse of the lung.
Is asthma genetic?
Genetic factors play a role in asthma. There may be asthma on the parents' side. The disease is more common in people whose parents have asthma. Allergy also plays a role in patients in whom genetic factors play a role. However, not every allergic person has asthma, and not every asthmatic person has an allergy.
Do stress and sadness trigger asthma?
Stress and sadness do not cause asthma. However, stress and sadness can trigger asthma attacks in people with asthma.
Is asthma an obstacle to pregnancy?
Although asthma does not pose an obstacle during pregnancy, there are medications that people with asthma can safely use during pregnancy. Pregnant asthma patients are not suitable for stopping their medications, as asthma attacks adversely affect the oxygen values in the tissues. In addition, the lack of oxygen in the fetus in the womb can also invite great risks. For this reason, it is necessary to provide the necessary oxygen by applying appropriate treatment to patients who encounter asthma attacks during pregnancy. Regular use of medication is extremely important at this point.
Is there a difference between asthma and bronchitis?
Although acute bronchitis and asthmatic bronchitis are very similar, these two diseases are often confused with each other. It is difficult to make this distinction, especially at the time of the first bronchitis attack, but the diagnosis process is simplified thanks to the clinical findings that occur in the ongoing attacks. At this stage, the absence of signs of viral infection before the bronchitis attack, frequent recurrences of wheezing episodes, and conditions such as atopy or asthma in family members are strong symptoms that will indicate that the disease is bronchitis asthma.
Remember that there are some precautions that asthma patients should take before going on vacation. We have prepared a guide for you in case you need help with this. You can read our article here; Asthma-Free Adventures: A Guide to Safe and Enjoyable Vacations