Asthma is a chronic or long-term lung disease that involves repeated attacks of airway constriction. During an asthma attack, something triggers swelling and narrowing of the airways, which causes asthma symptoms to develop.
Attacks can vary in both severity and frequency. Typical asthma symptoms include:
- Shortness of breath
- Chest tightness
Symptoms of asthma may become worse during the night or when exposed to specific allergens. According to the World Health Organization, asthma has a relatively low death rate when compared to other chronic diseases.
However, it can be fatal. According to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, in the United States, 10 people die from asthma attacks each day. But many of those attacks are preventable with proper care.
How to Prevent Symptoms
In many cases, asthma symptoms are preventable. It is essential to work closely with your doctor to develop an asthma action plan, which includes asthma prevention strategies. Below are some ways to prevent asthma symptoms.
One of the most important things you can do to prevent asthma attack symptoms is to reduce allergens. An allergen is a substance that triggers your asthma symptoms. Allergens are different for everyone, but common allergens include pollen, mold and pet dander. Additionally, smoke, dust and cold air may lead to asthma symptoms in some people.
Consider a Humidifier
If the air is too dry, it can irritate the airways and may lead to coughing and other asthma symptoms. Using a humidifier may help decrease this dryness. However, while a humidifier may soothe dryness, it may not be right for everyone with asthma.
Keep in mind that if the humidly level is too high, it can increase the risk of mold or dust mites; these are also common allergens. If you have indoor allergies that may trigger asthma symptoms, it is best to ask your doctor if a humidifier may help. According to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology, the indoor humidity levels should be kept between 40 and 50%.
Use an Air Purifier
An air purifier may help decrease allergens inside your home, such as dust mites and mold. It may be especially helpful if you have allergic asthma. Allergens are often suspended in the air and inhaled into the lungs, and therefore may trigger asthma symptoms.
Additionally, allergen particles are different sizes. For example, mold and pollen are larger than 0.3 microns. But other particles, such as smoke, may be smaller. So, it is best to choose an air purifier that removes particles as small as 0.3 microns.
Get Allergy Shots
If you have allergic asthma, allergy shots may help prevent symptoms. Once an allergen is identified, your doctor can give you injections containing small amounts of the substance. The dose is tiny, so it does not cause a full-blown asthma attack. Instead, it helps you become desensitized to the allergen. As you become less sensitive, it decreases asthma symptoms.
Allergy shots are given in a series. It often takes months of injections for you to build up a tolerance to the substance. But it may be a good option for people that have difficulty controlling allergic asthma.
Take Preventative Medications
Preventative asthma medications are not taken to treat sudden symptoms. Instead, they are prescribed to keep asthma symptoms at bay. Preventative asthma medications are also called maintenance meds. They are taken even when you feel well.
Different classifications of preventative medications may be part of an asthma treatment plan, including the following:
- Long-acting bronchodilators: Long-acting bronchodilators work on different receptors in the lungs to relax the muscles around the airways. As the muscles relax, they dilate or widen. Long-acting bronchodilators have a slower onset than fast-acting, but they last for a longer time. They are usually taken once or twice a day to prevent asthma symptoms.
- Corticosteroid inhalers: Corticosteroid inhalers block inflammation, which commonly develops with asthma. If asthma is not well-controlled with long-acting bronchodilators, steroid inhalers might be prescribed.
- Combination inhalers: Combination asthma medications contain a long-acting bronchodilator and a steroid. They are taken similarly to other preventative asthma inhalers and are usually taken once or twice a day.
Avoid Smoking and Exposure to Secondhand Smoke
Another critical thing you can do to prevent asthma symptoms is to avoid smoking; this includes tobacco, marijuana and vaping. Smoking of any kind irritates the airways further. It not only can increase your risk of asthma symptoms, but it also may make asthma attacks more severe. It is also essential to do your best to avoid being around secondhand smoke.
Prevention Is Possible
Asthma attacks can lead to serious symptoms, missed days of work or school, and decreased quality of life. But by taking the steps above, in many cases, you can prevent asthma symptoms from developing. As always, do not hesitate to talk with your doctor to develop an asthma prevention plan to reduce symptoms and prevent attacks.