Asthma is a lung condition that can make it hard to breathe. Asthma doesn’t always cause symptoms, but can be triggered, causing an asthma attack or flare. When an asthma attack occurs, the patient’s airways become inflamed and narrowed, resulting in difficulty with breathing.
WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS OF ASTHMA?
The patient experiencing asthma symptoms may have a cough, wheeze, and chest tightness.
WHAT ARE THE TRIGGERS FOR ASTHMA?
Triggers for asthma are exposures that can bring on a patient’s symptoms. While everyone is different, common triggers are:
-Illness (cold or flu)
-Animals (cats and dogs are common triggers)
-Dust and moulds
HOW DO I KNOW IF I HAVE ASTHMA?
Your doctor can review your symptoms, any known triggers and do a computerised breathing test called spirometry. The results of this review, in conjunction with a physical exam are often enough to make a diagnosis. Terrigal Medical Centre and Avoca Beach Medical Centre each have the necessary equipment (spirometer) available during usual business hours.
HOW IS ASTHMA TREATED?
There are two main treatments available for asthma.
1) Quick relief medication (eg Ventolin) works in 5-10 minutes and is used whenever a patient has symptoms. It can also be used just prior to circumstances where asthma may be triggered (prior to exercise or prior to walking into that house with the cats). The quick relief medications act to relax the airway muscles, opening up the tightened areas, which are causing the symptoms.
2) Preventative medications are used to help decrease the amount of asthma flares. Typically, they are used 1-2 times daily. They are often recommended by the doctor if the patient is using the quick relief medications more than twice a week.
3) Asthma medications are most often administered via a puffer. The effectiveness of the puffer has been shown to be greatly improved by the use of a spacer device. Your doctor/nurse team can teach the proper technique to use with the puffer/spacer combo.
WHAT IS AN ASTHMA ACTION PLAN?
As asthma action plan is a written plan that outlines usual daily medications, what to do if symptoms are getting worse, and when to seek help. This can be helpful to review if a patient’s symptoms are becoming more severe. It is also something that the schools or child care centres require so that they can safely administer the required medications.
CAN ASTHMA BE CURED?
Asthma is a disease process that can be managed successfully, but not cured. Most patients with asthma live full, unrestricted lives, and have minimal problems on a daily basis with their symptoms. Your doctor can help tailor a specific treatment plan that minimises asthma symptoms with a minimum of medication.