By Dr. Kevin Benson
As seen in the Odessa American “Medical Matters”: http://www.oaoa.com/people/health/medical_matters/article_c2285462-a09d-11e7-b46c-cfb9e97cafd1.html
Many of us have enjoyed a wheeze-free summer …and let’s face it, summer in West Texas lasts until at least October. Inevitably, with the change of seasons, along with fall-colored outfits and pumpkin spice flavored everything, we see the shiny yellow, red and blue of inhalers being used on those chilly mornings.
I think of asthma as hyper-reactive airways. Much like seasonal allergies where our noses and eyes react to things in our environments that are really not threatening, those of us with asthma have our lungs react to certain triggers. Triggers for asthma include allergies, changes in the weather, particles in the air like cigarette smoke (or smoke in general, watch those fireplaces!) and exercise. Everyone with asthma is a bit different, both in what they react to and to what extent they react. Asthma is then classified based on the frequency and severity of wheezing a particular person has.
Anyone can have wheezing once. But in general doctors don’t diagnose people with asthma unless there is a pattern of repetitive wheezing or coughing symptoms. In the past, there was a bit of stigma associated with asthma. However, with the invention of medication that improves control of symptoms and flare-ups, the fear of the diagnosis is fading. In fact, denying the fact that you or your child might have asthma can be dangerous. If one had been prescribed an inhaler more than once in the past, the possibility of asthma should be discussed.
When one encounters a trigger and begins wheezing, at least two things are happening in the lungs. Very simply:
- Muscles around the tubes in your airways tighten up, making it difficult to pass air through. This happens quickly.
- Mucus and inflammation begin to accumulate in your lungs. This happens slowly.
Medications for asthma work on both of these issues. Fast-acting bronchodilators relax the muscles and make breathing easier. Other medications work to slowly, decreasing the inflammation. These medications work in different ways and can be used together to treat and prevent asthma attacks. If you are, or your child is, using their bronchodilators frequently, you should discuss whether a preventative medication might be used to decrease the flare-ups.
Being aware and prepared is the key to a wheeze-free holiday season!