What is Asthma?
Bronchial Asthma is a chronic inflammatory disease of the airways that causes periodic attacks of coughing, wheezing, chest tightness and shortness of breath. It is associated with mast cells, eosinophiles and T lymphocytes. Mast cells are allergy-causing cells releasing chemicals like histamine which causes nasal stuffiness, constriction of airways, itchy areas in skin allergy, etc. Eosinophiles and T lymphocytes are white blood cells associated with allergy and inflammation. These and other inflammatory cells create airway inflammation leading to airway hyper-responsiveness, airflow limitation, respiratory symptoms and chronic disease. Some suffer chest tightness and breathlessness at night and in the early morning time (nocturnal asthma) and others feel these symptoms when they exercise (exercise-induced asthma)
Types of Asthma
Allergic rhinitis or hay fever in which the inside lining of the nose is inflamed is also called allergic asthma. A constant running nose, continuous sneezing, swelling of nasal passages, etc. might lead to cough, which is an asthmatic symptom,and other asthmatic symptoms.
Nightime (Nocturnal) Asthma
Causes of Asthma
Stages of Asthma
The frequency of the symptoms and their severity together with the results of pulmonary function tests determine the classification of Asthma.
SymptomsThere are four major symptoms of asthma recognized worldwide as sure signs. These are
Generally, diagnosing asthma involves a thorough study of the medical history of the patient, physical examination and lung function (breathing) tests. Histories of occurrence of the symptoms, allergies if any and the family history relating to asthma and allergies are studied and analyzed. Then the upper respiratory tract, chest, skin, nose, etc. are examined. Stethoscope is used to listen to wheezing sound when breathing out. Skin diseases like eczema and hives are often associated with asthma and signs of these may be examined. If asthma is suspected, medications to reduce symptoms are prescribed and the effect studied to confirm the diagnosis. In some cases, other tests are done to make sure.
Doctor may have recourse to breathing tests like spirometer test and/or challenge test. In the noninvasive test using spirometry, deep breaths into the lungs and forceful exhalation into a hose connected to a spirometer are deployed to measure FVC (Forced Vital Capacity) which is the maximum amount of air you can inhale and exhale at a time and FEV-1 (Forced Expiratory Volume) which is the maximum amount of air you can exhale in one second. Comparing these two measurements an obstruction may be presumed and a bronchodilator drug given. If the measurements improve after inhaling the drug, asthma can be confirmed. In the challenge test, airway obstruction is deliberately triggered by inhaling airway-constricting substances or cold air. If the spirometry test is normal even after such triggering, asthma is not the case.
If you have allergies and/or asthma, you must avoid dust, fibers, molds, dander from dogs and other animals, dust mites, etc. and other triggering agents like smoking and passive smoke. You must make at least your bed-room free of dust.
Methods of Treatments
As in the case of any other disease, prevention is always better than cure. Avoiding the causes or triggers of your asthma attacks and taking preventive medications indicated above are the best methods.
There are several ways of treating asthma according to the type of asthma and the stage to which it has advanced in the patient. Mental and physical exercises, dietary restrictions, massaging, application of oils, etc. can sometimes outdo intake of medications in effectiveness.
In the case of dry type of asthma, the main requirement is to increase the intake of fluids. The head, chest and back should be covered on cool days to avoid exposure to wind. Dairy products and nuts should be avoided. Daily massage of the whole body with sesame oil to add moisture to the body is advised. Food items that are moist and warm rather than cold, raw and dry should be preferred.
In the case of infection type asthma, eating late in the night should be avoided as it will accumulate toxins in the body due to digestive malfunctions. Plenty of water should be taken. Fruits and vegetables should be preferred to meats and dairy items and deep fried food should be totally excluded from the menu. Exertion in the cold and high temperature should be avoided. The immune system should be boosted with the intake of Echinacea in the form of tea and dandelion. As stress and anger have a part to play in this type of asthma, breathing exercises and meditation are recommended.
In the case of congestive type asthma, wheat products, refined sugar and dairy products should be avoided together with food items that are over-sweet, over-sour and over-salty. In order to prevent congestion, bitter, astringent and spicy foods should be eaten to increase circulation. Massaging chest and back with mustard oil will promote circulation. Balm of Gilead may be rubbed on the chest to increase warmth, prevent pneumonia and dilate the bronchial tubes enabling deeper breathing. Daily exercise, including some cardio exercise, for fifteen minutes is recommended. Eating between 10 am and 9 pm should be avoided to be free from digestive problems which are causes of this type of asthma. They should also avoid walking in the rain, leaving head and torso bare, drinking cold water and ice creams, etc. to prevent the mucus from becoming clogged.