The World Health Organization estimates that about 235 million people worldwide suffer from asthma. So you are definitely NOT alone if you are dealing with this yourself. Why have I decided to write about this?
My mom has asthma, my sister has asthma, so does my brother in law and my nephew. My nephew has been hospitalized multiple times for his asthma. When he was younger his symptoms were much much worse. He is 8 years old and his asthma is very well controlled now. Fewer episodes, quicker resolution of symptoms and I think this is because of many factors. First off, my sister is phenomenal. She was always on top of his medications, the timing, the amount. She tracked how often he had episodes, how severe, how often she was having to give him his meds. All of this information is crucial for doctors (in this case his pediatrician). See More at Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
All these things determine the severity of the symptoms and which medications need to be added, changed or removed. This is why paying attention to all these things is very important.
Another factor, my nephew was taken to an allergy specialist and was tested for possible allergens. Why was this an important step? Allergies can often times trigger an episode of asthma. But I will get into those ‘triggers’ in a minute. Having so many family members with asthma, I consider myself extremely lucky not to have it, although there have been times when I have felt my chest close up when I am exercising hard in cold weather. Another trigger? Hmm, lets get into it after I discuss asthma and its symptoms.
What does an asthma attack or episode look like?
Difficulty breathing, and WHEEZING! Can be accompanied by chest tightness and some pain due to lung inflammation.
What Causes Asthma?
No one really knows the exact cause. There is a genetic component. If parents or sisters have asthma, the child is more likely to have it. If the child has any other allergic conditions like atopic dermatitis (eczema) or allergic rhinitis (hay fever), they are also higher risk.
There are also some environmental factors that can increase a person’s risk of having asthma. Exposure to cigarette smoke as a baby or child is a huge risk factor for developing asthma. Being a smoker or being overweight can also increase your risk of having asthma.
What about triggers? What will trigger an attack or episode?
This is the most important part of this article. Why? Many people with asthma already know they have it, and they take medication. However, not everyone will know what caused or triggered the event. I will list a few things here that can trigger asthma symptoms. Some are obvious, but others are not that obvious and maybe not very well known.
- Dust, carpets, mold, pets (not their fur.. their skin… flaky skin known as pet dander will cause the allergic reaction and induce asthma), dust mites, and cockroaches too
- Pollen, grass, and flowers
- Tobacco smoke
- Any kind of irritant at work
- Viral infection, or the flu
There are a lot! It’s nearly impossible to avoid them all! BUT it is important to notice which ones triggered you or your family members so you can begin to predict an episode.
There are other triggers too.
- Cold air
- Extreme emotions (anxiety, panic attacks, anger, laughter)
What if you only get symptoms during the week and never have them during the weekends?
Consider Occupational Asthma
This is asthma associated with work. There is something in your work environment that is triggering your asthma, and its something to look into.
What if you’re exercising and suddenly feel chest tightness, cough, and wheezing?
Could be Exercise-Induced Asthma
It can be treated and prevented! Which is why I am mentioning it here. It doesn’t mean work out less, or less intense or avoid exercise at all. It means go see your doc and get your medication and instruction on how and when to take them so you can still get that run in.
Asthma is a chronic condition. Usually starts in childhood, maybe even teenage years. In the USA alone about 25 million people have asthma, and of those, 7 million are children. Boys have it more than girls but once they’re adults equal men and women have. Some may have severe asthma that needs daily medications regardless of whether or not they have an episode. Others have minimal symptoms and only use the inhaler when needed. Symptoms can get better as the years go by, and even disappear. They can also get worse. They can also come back as people get older even after the person had been asthma free for years.
Asthma has become a public health issue in both developed and developing countries. According to the WHO, 80% of fatalities due to asthma are occurring in developing countries. If this wasn’t reason to write about this, then lets get a little more personal.
My mom has asthma. This is a bit of a side note but if you follow me on IG you would have seen that a while back I got a French bulldog, her name was Sammy she was all cream. And then she disappeared from my stories and was never spoken about again. Why? A few months ago my family and I had just returned from Cartagena. The humidity, and mold of the old buildings started taking a toll on my mom’s lungs. Then, she got a viral infection. When we got back, my mom had already been exposed to two triggers: mold (she’s allergic to it) and a viral infection. When we bought the dog, she became the third trigger. It sent my mom into a full-blown asthma attack. She used her inhaler but it didn’t work, she then used the nebulizer and didn’t improve much. We noticed she’d get worse when the dog was nearby. So we had to return her. However, the dog was not enough to induce that severe reaction. We didn’t realize that at the time. But my mom was very sick and we had to do something. After returning Sammy, my mom slowly got better.
A few months later we realized it had been all 3 triggers combined. How? Well, during Christmas, we went to relative’s houses, they had dogs, my mom was fine. Based on that, my family decided to give me a dog. We searched and searched and I recently bought another French bulldog, his Kobe and I am extremely happy.
Moral of the story: It is very important to read as much about asthma as you can. Learn about the different kinds of asthma, the triggers, and the medications. Ask your doctor for pamphlets, ask them to explain things to you. Watch out for symptoms. Pay attention to how the symptoms evolve, if they get worse or if they get better. How often you find yourselves taking or giving the medications. These things will help your doctors and pediatricians change the treatment and tailor it to your specific needs so that you and your family members can live with well-controlled asthma.
Important Side note: Asthma Triggers Essential Oils
Anxiety and Panic Attacks and Asthma
Some studies have shown that children with asthma experience a lot of anxiety. As I mentioned earlier, anxiety can also trigger asthma. So it is important to know that. In addition, the same study found that mother’s had higher levels of anxiety than their children during their kids’ asthma attack.
Another study showed that asthma attacks predicted subsequent panic disorders. As mentioned before, panic attacks can also trigger an asthma attack. Chronic conditions and mental health are often times interconnected. One can cause the other and vise versa. Knowing this is important. Why?
Anxiety and Panic attacks can also feel like an asthma attack. It is important to distinguish between the two. Sometimes asthma can be triggered, other times it may just be the anxiety and panic attack present.
Essential Oils to treat Asthma
There has not been a lot of research supporting the use of essential oils to treat symptoms of asthma. Some say lavender oils are good. Others say to be careful about using essential oils. Anything in the air, like pollutants, or particles like those produced by essential oils can induce airway hyperactivity, which is what happens in asthma.
What about putting some on your skin? If you were to do this, DILUTE IT! The concentration of the oils can cause skin irritation. So before applying anything on your body or that of your child, use a tiny bit first on a small area on the skin (diluted of course). Sometimes oils can cause adverse reactions depending on the person.
Bottom line is, do not put anything on your skin unless you test it out. Do not burn oils, or incense or anything that can change the air quality especially when there’s an asthmatic in the house. If you have any questions at all, please feel free to email me. Follow me on IG @doctor.vero you can also DM me there.
Above all, ask your doctors questions. The more questions the better. Stay well informed. Don’t be afraid to ask and ask again. If there is something you don’t quite understand, ask for explanations until you do. Your health, the health of your family and your children will depend on your knowledge of asthma, the treatment and the regimen. So stay as informed as possible.