Almost 26 million Americans have asthma. According to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, this is "one of this country's most common and most costly diseases." 8.3% of all children in the US suffer asthma, and the number continues to grow year on year. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention predicts the monetary cost to be $56 billion. An understanding of what makes excellent asthma care is therefore essential for the good of the individuals affected and the efficiency of the country's medical care system in general.

Child using asthma inhaler

Here we offer a complete guide to asthma care. We explore the symptoms, causes, the routes to diagnosis, potential asthma care options, including the benefits of asthma clinics, and, finally, guidance on how to prevent asthma attacks.

What are the symptoms of an Asthma attack?

We may all think that we know the symptoms of asthma. However, are we aware that it is possible to die from an asthma attack and that asthma can significantly restrict the quality of life of sufferers? There are nearly 3,500 early asthma deaths.

The CDC describes asthma as a "lifelong disease that causes wheezing, breathlessness, chest tightness, and coughing."

The wheezing can be quite pronounced, with a whistling sound as the individual breathes in and out. The tightness of the chest can be so severe that it feels like a band constricting and restricting the outward and inward movement of air.

Many conditions present in a similar way to asthma. However, you should consider asthma if these symptoms often happen and keep on coming back. You may feel that the symptoms are worse early in the day or last at night. It is likely that there is a trigger, as asthma and allergy care often go hand in hand. Common allergens that can trigger asthma include pollen and animal fur.

Asthma signs and symptoms

Although this is a potentially serious condition, most sufferers can manage their symptoms and understand how to prevent asthma attacks. If you visit your doctor, they could refer you to an asthma clinic for the best management of the condition.

General asthma is different from an asthma attack. Learning how to prevent an asthma attack is essential as the symptoms can become severe – including death. You could become too breathless to do basic life tasks such as eating and even sleeping. You may notice that your heart is beating much faster, you feel drowsy, confused or dizzy. At its most severe, you could feel completely exhausted and potentially faint.

The CDC present three asthma action plan stages. You can find the full action plan on the CDC site, but in brief, they offer the following: the green zone where the sufferer is doing well, and they can manage long-term care with medicines. There is the yellow zone, where symptoms are getting worse, and there may be a need for additional quick-relief medicine. Then, there is the red zone, where the symptoms are severe, and there is little relief from inhalers, and it is essential to treat this as a medical emergency.

What are the causes of Asthma?

Those who suffer from asthma have sensitive airways that can become easily swollen, or inflamed, and therefore narrow and filled with mucus.

Asthmatic airway

The continuing increase in asthma cases has led to some suggestions that asthma is directly linked to air quality. However, it is also clear that asthma runs in families. Oddly, people also point to increased standards in hygiene, as our bodies become less able to deal with our environment. Other triggers suggested by the Mayo Clinic include pollen, dust mites, mold spores, respiratory infections, the common cold and irritants such as smoke. It is even possible to suffer asthma symptoms due to emotions and stress and maybe even as a result of excess stomach acids.

In short, the exact cause for asthma is unknown. There are theories, and there are triggers for individuals whether it is exercise-induced asthma; occupational asthma and allergy induced asthma. However, there are risk factors that can lead you to be more likely to develop asthma than another individual. These risk factors include: having a relative with asthma; having another allergy; being overweight; being a smoker or exposure to secondhand smoke; pollution; exposure to chemicals.

Asthma Diagnosis

Your asthma care can begin when you have a diagnosis. Your doctor can help you form your Asthma Action Plan, which aims to prevent asthma attacks.

When you visit your doctor, they would ask about your symptoms, the frequency of these symptoms, what triggers the difficulties you face and whether you have any other conditions. They may ask you about your family history and whether there is any occurrence of asthma or other conditions like eczema or allergies.

It is difficult to test children for asthma without causing them too much distress. Therefore, your doctor may prescribe an inhaler and ask you to monitor if this controls the symptoms.

Adults will be taken through one or more of the following tests to help diagnose asthma.

FeNO test: a machine measures the level of nitric oxide in your breath. If there is a higher level of nitric oxide, then you likely have inflammation in your lungs.

Spirometry: again, you will breathe into a machine and this will measure how quickly you can breathe in and out and the amount of air you can hold in your lungs.

Peak flow test: this is another machine, which this time measure how quickly you exhale. You will be asked to complete this test several times over many weeks to see if it changes.

Allergy test: asthma and allergy care often go hand in hand. It may be that you are tested for allergies to see what acts as a trigger for your asthma.

Although asthma is a chronic condition, a firm diagnosis can help your doctor provide appropriate care and a potential referral to an asthma clinic.

Asthma care

Asthma is a chronic condition, which means there is no cure. There are, however, successful treatments for the management of the symptoms and ensuring individuals can live a healthy and active life.

Asthma attack

The American Lung Associate has issued guidelines for the best asthma care. What's good for asthma differs from person to person and area by area. The potential asthma care options include:

  • Quick-relief medications
  • Controller medications such as inhaling corticosteroids
  • Devices such as spacers or an Alair Bronchial Thermoplasty System, which WebMD notes have recently been permitted by the Food and Drug Administration as an alternative to drugs
  • Allergen immunotherapy and allergen testing because asthma and allergy care often go hand-in-hand
  • Home visits
  • Self-management education with breathing exercises and management of the home environment
  • Complementary therapies such as herbal medicine and acupuncture

To understand what asthma care should be issued, your doctor determines its severity. Remember what’s good for asthma differs from person to person. Therefore, the doctor will form an action plan that works for you. They may show you how to use the preventative inhaler and prescribe medicines that will instantly relieve symptoms if exposed to a trigger. They may work with you to work out what triggers your asthma and offer additional treatment, particularly in asthma and allergy care are linked.

Inhaler Technique Videos

Asthma attacks

According to the CDC, the answer to how to prevent asthma attacks links to better asthma education. Therefore, reading this guide to asthma care is your first step to taking control of your condition. Remember asthma attacks kill 9 US citizens every day. The sad news is that many of these deaths could have been avoided.

First, an asthma attack may not be sudden. The symptoms may worsen over a few hours or days. You need to stay aware and monitor your breathing or the breathing of your child. Assess if the inhaler is working or not and whether your peak flow score is lower. If your asthma attack gradually creeps up on you, then you should still seek urgent medical care.

Asthma Inhaler

How to prevent an asthma attack's worse impacts is a matter of following these steps:

  • Sit upright and take slow breathes – do not lie down and remember that panicking can make symptoms worse – so staying calm is essential
  • Use your inhaler every 30 to 60 seconds for a maximum of 10 uses
  • Call 911 if your inhaler doesn’t have an impact
  • If emergency care has not arrived within 15 minutes, then repeat the use of your inhaler

You should never be embarrassed to call for emergency care. It is better to be safe. Be ready with your action plan and your medications, so that the paramedics understand how to care for you.

If you manage your asthma attack you should still see your doctor within two days. Statistics prove that 1 in 6 of those who suffer an asthma attack require hospital treatment within two weeks.

How to prevent an asthma attack is more important in some ways than how to manage them when they arrive. Remember asthma care is often managed through your asthma care plan, which lays out your medications and regimes. You should commit to regular appointments with your doctor or your asthma clinic, to monitor your condition. Most importantly, avoid those things that are likely to trigger your symptoms.

Overview of your Asthma Care

In short, what's good for asthma differs from person to person. It is a chronic condition and personal to the individual.  Therefore, the management of your asthma care is going to be facilitated through your doctor or asthma clinic. You need an asthma care plan, and you need a stable regime of medication that will manage your condition. Education is important.  Understanding your symptoms and what to do when these symptoms flare up could save your life.