Asthma is a chronic condition that affects the airways. It is an inflammatory disease that leads to a variety of symptoms. The causes of asthma may vary from one individual to another. The main cause of the inflammation is exposure to asthma triggers. The airways fill with mucus and become narrow and inflamed when they come into contact with such triggers. When an individual experiences an asthma attack, the mucus membranes swell and become inflamed. There are also spasms in the muscles of the airways. The increased production of mucus makes the airways narrow and this leads to difficulty in breathing. Symptoms such as coughing and wheezing also occur as the body reacts to the irritants present in the airways and tries to eliminate them through the mucus.
Symptoms of Asthma
An asthma attack takes place when the airways get irritated or inflamed. Asthma attacks may occur suddenly or develop gradually over a few hours or days. The primary symptoms of an asthma attack include:
- Tightness in the chest
- Pain or a sensation of pressure in the chest
- Breathing difficulty
The symptoms of asthma are likely to vary from case to case. You may not necessarily experience all the symptoms. The symptoms may also vary from one asthma attack to another. Many individuals with asthma may remain symptom-free for some time and then experience periodic attacks. Some people may develop symptoms only during physical activity or when they come in contact with irritants. In most cases, asthma attacks are mild as the airways open up after a brief period of time. Severe attacks may persist for longer periods of time and require medical attention.
There are some signs and symptoms which occur when an asthma episode is about to occur. These are not very severe, but addressing them can help to prevent an attack from worsening. They early warning signs include:
- Shortness of breath
- Coughing especially at night
- Tiredness while performing any physical activity
- Symptoms of allergies or a cold such as nasal discharge, sore throat and headache
- Difficulty in sleeping
If the above symptoms are not treated in a timely manner, severe symptoms are likely to follow. These symptoms may affect your daily functioning. They include:
- Persistent cough during the day and night
- Severe wheezing
- Poor response to asthma medications
- Rapid breathing
- Pale appearance of the skin
- Difficulty in talking
Causes of Asthma
Asthma episodes occur when the airways become blocked and inflamed due to exposure to certain triggers. The airways are highly sensitive and there is a reaction whenever there is contact with an external factor. An asthma attack may occur immediately after exposure to an irritant or a few hours or days later. Different people may react to different triggers. It is essential to identify and avoid contact with triggers so that asthma episodes are prevented. The most common triggers include:
- Pollen from grass, trees and weeds
- Mold spores
- Pet dander
- Certain foods
- Colds or respiratory infections
- Detergents or other cleaning agents
- Cold weather
- Anxiety or strong emotions
- Intake of certain medications
Some individuals may also have a genetic predisposition to asthma.
Remedies for Asthma
Honey is one of the most common home remedies for asthma. It is said that if a jug of honey is held under the nose of an asthma patient and he inhales the air that comes into contact with it, he starts breathing easier and deeper.
The most important step in controlling your asthma is to reduce exposure to allergens and triggers. Here are some helpful tips:
- The pollen count is high during certain seasons and this is when you are most prone to asthma attacks. Therefore keep your windows shut during these times. You can also use air conditioning to restrict the entry of pollen. An air conditioner will also help to reduce humidity and will protect you from exposure to dust mites.
- Make sure that you have your air conditioner cleaned regularly and have the filters changed.
- Dust can worsen asthma symptoms especially at night. Use dust-proof covers on your pillows and mattresses. Carpets can collect a great deal of dust and therefore it is advisable to opt for linoleum flooring instead. Also ensure that you wash your curtains regularly to get rid of dust.
- Use a dehumidifier if you live in regions with damp weather
- Avoid exposure to animals if you are allergic to animal dander. If you have pets, ensure that they are groomed well and bathed regularly.
- Protect your nose and mouth with a mask while cleaning or dusting the home
- Cold air can worsen asthma symptom and may even bring on an episode. Therefore it is advisable to cover your face when stepping out.
You can also effectively manage asthma symptoms by staying healthy. Here are some ways to improve your health:
Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables as these strengthen the immune system and protect you from infections and other health conditions
Maintain healthy weight as being overweight can put you at risk for many health issues and can also aggravate your asthma
Exercise regularly so that your respiratory system functions well. However avoid overexerting your body. Wear a mask when exercising in cold weather as this can trigger asthma symptoms.
Asthma symptoms may worsen due to acid reflux since the airways suffer damage. Therefore if you suffer from heartburn, consult your doctor regarding treatment. This may help to improve asthma symptoms.
While there are no natural cures for asthma, some methods of natural treatment can help to keep the symptoms in check. Some common asthma home remedies include:
Squeeze a lemon into a glass of water and drink the solution along with meals.
Take three dry figs and clean them well. Soak them in water for one night and consume the next morning. This helps in easing congestion.
Add 5 to 6 grams of Indian gooseberry to a tablespoon of honey and consume every morning.
The roots of bitter gourd have been used to treat asthma in many traditional societies. Crush some of the roots into a paste. Add a teaspoon of honey to a teaspoon of the paste and consume at night. You can also add the juice of holy basil leaves to the paste.
Prepare a beneficial soup for relieving asthma symptoms using drumstick leaves. Add a handful of the leaves to water and boil for a few minutes. Then add some lemon juice, salt and pepper.
Ginger works well in keeping asthma symptoms under control. Boil some fenugreek in water and then add one teaspoon of ginger juice. Also add some honey and drink twice daily.
You can control the early symptoms of asthma by boiling garlic cloves in milk and consuming the mixture every day. You can even add garlic to ginger tea.
Herbal remedies are believed to help in the treatment of asthma. Add half a teaspoon of the herb Bishops weed to buttermilk and drink daily. This helps to drain mucus from the air passages. You can also make a poultice with the seeds of Bishops weed and apply to the chest.
Steam inhalation is highly effective in alleviating congestion. Add a handful of carom seeds to boiling water and inhale the vapors arising from it. This will soothe irritated and inflamed airways.
Mix one teaspoon of safflower seed powder with one tablespoon of honey and consume twice every day. This relaxes the muscles around the airways and also expels phlegm from the air passages.
Diet for Asthma
Certain foods are known to help in easing an asthma attack. These include:
- Caffeine dilates the bronchial passages and thus alleviates the symptoms of an asthma attack.
- Pungent foods help in thinning the mucus and this prevents the air passages from becoming narrow. These foods include onions, garlic and chili.
- Foods such as tuna, sardines and other fatty fish contain anti-inflammatory compounds which reduce inflammation. Onions and foods which contain vitamin C also help in this regard.
- The B vitamins are beneficial for asthmatic individuals. They are contained in foods such as pulses, leafy green vegetables, dried figs, millets, green banana and bitter gourd. Fruits such as green papaya and grapes are also helpful in keeping asthma in check.
- Vitamins C and E are known to reduce inflammation in the lungs and air passages which usually occurs during asthma attacks. A diet rich in these vitamins will help to protect from colds and respiratory infections which are asthma triggers.
Suggestion for Asthma
Flu is a common asthma trigger and can also worsen the symptoms once an episode occurs. Therefore it is advisable to get a flu shot on a yearly basis. An annual flu shot is recommended for asthmatic individuals above 6 years. The side effects of the vaccine are minor such as mild fever, soreness or redness at the injection site.
- Melody C. Carter, Matthew S. Perzanowski, Amos Raymond, Thomas A.E. Platts-Mills, Home intervention in the treatment of asthma among inner-city children, Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, Volume 108, Issue 5, November 2001, Pages 732-737, ISSN 0091-6749, 10.1067/mai.2001.119155.
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