Asthma is a complex, chronic condition impacting approximately 26 million people in the US or one in every 12 people. Because it impairs one’s ability to breathe, asthma can be life-threatening. Additionally, there are several different types and causes of asthma, as well as a variety of treatment methods and products designed to help people live better with asthma.
It is hard to provide a simple asthma definition because this condition is so varied. However, at its most basic, asthma is a chronic condition in which the airways of the lungs become inflamed and therefore constricted.
Asthma Causes and Types
According to the American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology, the six most common types of asthma are:
- Adult-Onset Asthma
- Exercise-Induced Bronchoconstriction
- Allergic Asthma
- Nonallergic Asthma
- Asthma-COPD Overlap
- Occupational Asthma
Asthma Signs and Symptoms
Asthma signs and symptoms vary by the type of asthma you have. However, some of the most common signs of asthma include:
- Persistent cough
- Shortness of breath
- Chest tightness
- Whistling sound when you breathe
Only a doctor can diagnose asthma, so it is important to seek medical attention if you repeatedly experience any of the above symptoms.
After An Asthma Diagnosis
Learning to live well and safely with asthma takes time. You’ll need to learn what your asthma attack symptoms look and feel like and what your asthma attack triggers are. By identifying your triggers and learning to recognize your attacks early on, you will be better able to manage your asthma.
In addition to following your doctor’s advice about medications and lifestyle changes, there are some general tips for asthma management:
- Avoid allergens
- Avoid air pollutants/irritants
- Carry your medications at all times
- Wear a medical ID
Allergens are substances that trigger immune system responses, which can include asthma attacks. Thankfully, there are asthma products available that are designed to help you avoid allergens:
- Sleep Safely: Look for allergen-controlling mattress and pillow covers for safer sleep.
- Breathe Well: People often find that air purifiers help reduce their allergen exposure, which can help with successful treatment and prevention of asthma attacks.
- Decorate Accordingly: Allergens such as dust and mold get trapped in fabrics. You can help reduce your exposure by opting for easily cleanable hard floors as opposed to allergen-trapping carpet. You may also want to forgo the dust-collecting drapes in favor of wipe-clean mini blinds.
- Limit Chemicals: Choose natural cleaning products if you find that chemicals trigger your asthma.
- Avoid Food Allergens: Did you know food allergens can impact asthma? Keeping all of your allergen exposures down can help with asthma management.
- Go All Natural: Did you know that certain indoor plants can help clean the air? Among others, NASA has studied how certain plants help improve indoor air quality by actually removing some airborne chemicals. Among the most effective are spider plants, which are also called air plants. Kid- and pet-friendly, spider plants only need a little watering a couple of times a week to do their best work.
Avoid Air Pollutants and Irritants
Outside the home, it’s obviously harder to control the air we breathe. Simply walking down a city street, it’s easy to be exposed to pollution from cars, cigarette smoke, and other triggering smells, chemicals, and allergens. Here are a few outdoor safety considerations for asthma:
- When possible, avoid exposure to car exhaust.
- For instance, you may want to consider alternate transportation routes that can help you avoid high traffic areas if car exhaust is a trigger for you.
- When possible, avoid natural outdoor allergens.
- For instance, if your asthma is triggered by a ragweed allergy, learn when and where it blooms in your area, and avoid exposure.
- Have an action plan in place so that you and those closest to you know what to do in the event of an asthma attack.
- Always stay away from people who are smoking.
- Use a weather app to keep an eye out for things like, “orange alerts,” which are air quality alerts designed to caution those who are particularly sensitive to air pollution, including those with asthma.
- Wear a mask when you need it.
- If you can’t avoid a pollution-heavy area or you are engaging in an activity that sometimes triggers your asthma (EG: lawn mowing), you may find wearing a mask to be helpful.
In addition to carrying your medications at all times and taking the steps above, there are a few other things you can do to live safer with asthma:
- Exercise: Being in good shape can help with most health conditions, and asthma is no exception. Discuss your exercise program with your doctor, and remember that while exercise is important, over-exertion can trigger an asthma attack. Be prepared and be cautious as you exercise.
- Wear a medical ID: Wearing a medical ID obviously won’t help you prevent asthma attacks, but it’s a great tool to have in the event that you have an asthma attack and need assistance. Particularly because asthma impairs breathing and therefore speech, it is extremely important to have your name, diagnosis, emergency contact info, and treatment considerations (EG: Inhaler in purse / Call 911) engraved on your asthma med ID.
- Have an action plan: An asthma action plan is a simple document you can create and share with those closest to you. Here’s a good example from KidsHealth. Include things such as:
- YOUR asthma attack symptoms
- Where you keep your rescue medications and how to use them
- When to call your doctor
- When to call 911
- Stay calm: If you have an asthma attack, don’t panic, as this will exacerbate the problem. Remember your action plan steps, and walk through them as calmly as you can.
Asthma can be dangerous and scary. However, with proper management and proactive steps, most people are able to effectively manage their asthma. Have some tips for managing asthma? Share them with us in the comments!
Learn more about what to engrave on your asthma medical ID bracelet.
As Director of Sales, Marketing, and Business Development for Lauren’s Hope, Tara Cohen is often the voice of Lauren’s Hope. Whether she’s writing the Lauren’s Hope blog, crafting a marketing email, or describing a new product, Cohen brings a little personal touch to everything she creates.
Part of the LH team since 2012, Cohen has spent years learning about various medical conditions and what engravings are most helpful for each.
In addition to her years of experience at Lauren’s Hope and all of the research she puts into writing for LH, Cohen draws on her own life experiences to bring a human touch to the LH blog.