Asthma is a common condition affecting millions of people. It causes the walls of the airway to swell, narrowing the pathway and causing extra mucus to be produced. When this happens, breathing becomes difficult and strained. Wheezing, coughing, and shortness of breath can be triggered as well. The condition can present itself at any point during a person's life, from infancy to adulthood. Although some afflicted people are only affected in a minor way, others can greatly suffer, with even the most basic daily activities becoming a challenge. Asthma attacks can also be life-threatening, especially if the person does not abide by his/her recommended treatment. Although it can't be cured, symptoms of asthma can be controlled and managed, allowing patients to continue to lead full lives.
Symptoms of asthma present differently depending on the severity of the condition from person to person. Some people will experience infrequent attacks, only having symptoms during curtain activities, such as while exercising. Others may have symptoms all the time. Regardless of the frequency, symptoms of asthma are easy to identify. The most common include: shortness of breath, tightness or pain in the chest, sleep problems, wheezing, and coughing attacks (especially those that are worsened by illness such as the flu). Some signs of asthma are more bothersome, such as regular difficulty breathing. Certain activities, irritants, and allergies can also worsen symptoms of asthma. Exposure to chemicals, fumes, gases, dust, or mold are some examples of things to limit or avoid to reduce the risk of an asthma attack.
After being diagnosed, patients with asthma must take all treatment recommendations from a doctor in order to manage attacks. Prevention techniques are key to stopping them before they begin, and learning to recognize person-specific triggers is one way to accomplish this. Tracking one's breathing and practicing control techniques are also strategies to incorporate in order to avoid having an asthma attack. Doctors may also prescribe medications, including quick-relief inhalers, to provide immediate relief and to prevent the flare-up of symptoms. The right medication will depend on the patient's age, symptoms, triggers, and other health concerns. Long-term medications reduce inflammation in the airways and keep asthma under control on a daily basis. Some of these medications are also used in conjunction with an inhaler.
Using an Inhaler
Although preventative medications can be effective in reducing inflammation and reducing the risk of an attack, they can still occur. In these cases, quick-relief inhalers called 'bronchodilators' must be used. In an emergency, an inhaler acts rapidly, providing short-term relief from symptoms and allowing the user to regain control of his/her breathing. Almost all people diagnosed with asthma are prescribed an inhaler as a way to open the airway passage in a rescue situation. In addition to short-action, there are also long-acting bronchodilators that can be inhaled daily in order to control asthma. These are used along with other controlling medications in attempt to manage the condition on a daily basis.
Common Inhalers Used
After being inhaled, quick-relief bronchodilators act within minutes, easing symptoms during an attack. These inhalers or nebulizers are usually blue in color and include the medicine albuterol (a short-acting beta agonist), which is sold under the brand name Proventil. They are small and portable, fitting into the palm of one's hand. These tiny machines convert the medication into a mist and release a metered dose, which is then inhaled through a mouthpiece. Combination inhalers are also available and typically contain a mixture of long-acting and shor tacting medications. Some short term inhalers are mostly used for patients who suffer from chronic bronchitis or emphysema. If long-term medications are taken correctly, these quick-relief inhalers shouldn't need to be used very often. However, they should always be kept on-hand in case of an unexpected flare-up.