Asthma is a treatable health condition. Although at present there is no cure, with good management, people with asthma can lead normal, active lives.
There are 4 main components to the treatment of asthma:
Medications used in the treatment of asthma
Preventers/Anti-inflammatory agents control airway inflammation thereby keeping the airways open by reducing swelling and mucus. Inhaled steroids are the most effective anti-inflammatory medication for the treatment of asthma. They should be taken daily to reduce the risk of asthma attacks and to prevent airway injury. It may take a few months for preventers to reach their optimal effect. Examples of inhaled steroids include beclomethasone, budesonide and fluticasone.
Relievers/Bronchodilators work mainly by relaxing the airway muscles to open the airway. They provide relief from asthma symptoms within minutes and are used during an acute asthma attack. They have little or no effect on airway inflammation. Examples of bronchodilators include beta-agonists (eg salbutamol) and anti-cholinergics (eg ipatropium).
Can people with asthma exercise?
Yes. People with asthma should not avoid exercise as it is beneficial. Swimming is often recommended when asthma is under control. Most asthmatics can participate and excel at any sport (a number of Olympic medalists have asthma). For people whose asthma is brought on specifically by exercise, medication can be taken before exercise to help avoid an episode.
What is exercise-induced asthma?
This is narrowing of the airways that is caused by exercise. It is more likely to happen when there is exposure to cold air with low humidity, and air pollutants. A specialised test that includes cycling or treadmill running is usually performed to confirm the diagnosis.
What is a peak flow meter?
It is a simple device which measures airflow and therefore determines how open your airways are objectively (rather than by guessing). It is analogous to a thermometer for a patient with fever. It is used to determine the severity of an attack, to monitor response to treatment and to detect worsening in lung function in a patient who has difficulty recognizing symptoms of asthma thereby enabling prompt treatment to avoid a possible serious attack.
What is the relationship between asthma and smoking?
Smoking has a harmful effect on the airways and can trigger an asthma attack. All asthmatics should not smoke, and should also avoid passively inhaling smoke from cigarettes, cigars and pipes from family members.
What happens when an asthmatic gets pregnant?
About a third of asthmatics worsen during pregnancy. Uncontrolled asthma causes a reduction in oxygen content in the mother's blood. Since the foetus gets its oxygen from the mother’s blood, this may lead to impaired foetal growth and survival. Properly controlled asthma does not increase the risk of maternal or infant complications and is essential during pregnancy.
American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology: http://www.aaaai.orgAmerican Lung Association: http://www.lungusa.org
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