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Asthma is a pulmonary disorder where the airways becomes swollen and narrow and produce extra mucus. Difficulties in breathing and coughing, shortness of breath and wheezing can occur as a result. Asthma is estimated to affect 15-20 million people in India while many of them don’t know that they are suffering from asthma particularly if their asthma symptoms are not severe.
Causes of Asthma
- Asthma can be caused by a wide range of factors. Most commonly it can be triggered due to exposure to some kind of allergen. These allergens may include animal dander, pollen, ragweed or dust mites.
- Irritants in the air such as chemical fumes, strong odors and smoke can also result in asthma onset as well as the extreme of weather conditions. Exercise is another factor.
- Shouting, crying or laughing hardly can also be a cause of onset of Asthma
- Respiratory Illnesses such as flu can also make a person more susceptible towards the asthma.
Asthma management is easy for some patients while it is particularly problematic for some others even to the extent where it is fatal. Disease is not curable but it can be managed by controlling the symptoms. Continuous collaboration with a pulmonologist is essential for effective management of the symptoms as the disease changes over time.
- Chest pain, pressure or tightness
- Coughing especially at night
- Shortness of breath
Asthma symptoms vary widely from person to person. Some experience the symptoms all the time while others can show the symptoms only at certain and showing no symptoms at all for long periods of time. Others may experience some symptoms at one asthma attack while in the other they may experience different set of symptoms. Some people show the symptoms only at specific times such as while exercising or with viral infections like influenza.
Mild attacks of asthma are generally more common with airway opening up within a few minutes or hours whereas the severe attacks last considerably longer but are not so common. Immediate medical help must be provided in the severe asthmatic attack. However mild asthma symptoms must also be treated to keep them from converting into the severe attack.
Early Asthma Symptoms
The symptoms that start just before or at the very beginning of an asthma attack are the early warning signs that the asthma is worsening. These signs are not problematic enough to interfere with the daily activities but by recognizing these early signs an asthma attack can be stopped or prevented from getting worse. Some early warning signs are enlisted below.
- Wheezing coughing after exercising
- Easily losing breath
- Shortness of breath
- Frequent cough particularly at night
- Feeling tired while exercising
- Decreases or changes in pulmonary function
- Trouble sleeping
- Symptoms of flu such as runny nose, sneezing, nasal congestion, headache and sore throat
These early signs should prompt a person to seek medical attention to resolve these symptoms at an earlier stage.
Symptoms Just Before An Asthma Attack
These are the signs that appear just before or at the very start of an asthma attack:
- Losing your breath
- Coughing a lot particularly at night
- Trouble sleeping
- Feeling cranky
- Difficulty breathing after exercising
- Lower PEF value as measured by the peak flow meter
A person experiencing these symptoms should immediately follow the steps in the asthma action plan to keep them from worsening.
Symptoms During An Attack
During the attack a person might experience the following symptoms
- A cough that won’t stop
- Squeezed feeling in the chest
- Short, shallow breaths
- Whistling sound on breathing
Patient should stay calm while the attack and immediately use the inhaler or nebulizer to stop the asthma attack.
Symptoms During Worsening Of Asthma
Following signs and symptoms shows that the asthma is worsening
- Wheezing both on breathing in and out
- Getting a feeling of tightness in the neck and chest muscles
- Inability to stop cough
- Feeling panicky
- Pale and sweaty face
After An Asthma Attack
After suffering from an asthma attack, extreme feelings of tiredness may occur. Once a patient suffers from an attack, there is an increased chance of another asthmatic reaction to occur for the next few days. Patients must be extra cautious about the early warning signs. It is also important to avoid the factors that may trigger an asthmatic reaction. Asthma action must followed closely. Strict adherence to medication must ensured too.
Unusual Asthma Symptoms
Apart from the symptoms enlisted above there may be unusual symptoms experienced by the patients that does not seems to be part of the asthma but are actually associated with it. Enlisted below are some of these symptoms.
- Difficulty sleeping
- Chronic cough
- Difficulty concentrating
- Inability to exercise
- Rapid breathing
Some inconsistent asthma symptoms further complicate the matters such as nocturnal asthma where the patent experiences an asthma attack at night instead of the day. Some asthma-like symptoms that occurs with other concomitant pathological conditions like heart failure, dysfunction of vocal cords and bronchitis maybe mistaken as the asthma symptoms. These act as barriers in accurately diagnosing the asthma and pose a challenge for the patient and the health care providers.