Asthma Treatment and Control Methods
Asthma is a type of chronic disease. The frustrating fact is that it is incurable, but there still have many methods, such as using useful tools or taking medications, to help treat or control asthma. In addition, some practical benchmarks can also be used to estimate your progress of treatment.
1. Helpful tools: The Peak Flow Meter
This little device is simple and easy to handle in hands. When you blow air into it, the flow meter will display your peak flow volume directly. The presented measurement can tell you how well the air flows from your lungs, which helps you to control the asthma. And your physician will give you clear directions about how long you need to use this tool for tests, how to analyze the measurements and how many medicines you should take according to the measurements. Some patients prefer to use it at every morning for measurements records, while some may use it intermittently.
You may have an optimal measuring number that is tested for two or three weeks to prove the good control of asthma. You can determine your asthma by judging every test with your optimal number. When the peak flow is going to decline, it may forebode a serious asthma attack. This meter can also be used check the effectiveness of drug treatment after taking asthma medications.
2. Preventive checkups
Visiting your doctor every two to six weeks should be included into your asthma control. When your asthma is under control, you can adjust the regular checkups to once per month or twice per year.
It will finally become useful to record your asthma attacks, diagnoses and symptoms because when you come to see the doctor, he will question you these details or your daily activities in order to have a better judgment of your asthma control progresses.
3. Good control
If there are some positive signs, your asthma may be well controlled.
1) If severe and chronic symptoms, like coughing and breath difficulties, are well prevented, or these symptoms occur less than two days a week.
2) You feel well with only a few doses of quick relief medicines, or you take them for no more than two days a week.
3) Your lungs function well.
4) Your activity stays at normal levels.
5) You have normal sleep or your wake-ups caused by asthma symptoms are no more than two night a month.
6) There are no needs for emergency medical treatment.
7) Asthma attack that requires taking inhaled corticosteroids happens less than once a year.
8) The peak flow remains over 80% of your own optimal number.
Above benchmarks are often achieved by avoiding the unfavorable factors that can worsen your asthma and consulting with your doctor. You also need to pay more attentions on other factors that could interfere with your asthma management. Avoiding asthma and asthma symptom triggers is also important for a good asthma control.
Generally, medications for asthma treatment can be classified into two types: quick-relief and long-term control. Quick-relief medications can used to relieve asthma symptoms immediately or rescue sufferers from asthma promptly, while medications of long-term control are intended to reduce airways inflammation and prevent symptoms.
There are three common forms of asthma medications: pills, powders and mists. But most of asthma medications are powders and mists, which are taken by patients through a little gadget called inhaler. Using inhalers can help medications travel through airways to your lungs more efficiently.
Patients can take medications through a nebulizer, which can provide them with larger and continuous doses. A nebulizer can vaporize medications of saline solutions into steady foggy vapors, which can be better inhaled by asthma sufferers.
2) Long-Term Control Medicines
With the aim of preventing asthma symptoms, long-term control medications are often recommended to taken daily. Inhaled corticosteroids are considered to be the most useful ones comparing with other long-term control medicines. It can relieve airway swelling and inflammation substantially. And this medication can significantly reduce the risk of chain reactions of asthma attacks that are caused by inflammation. It’s not easy to take this as a daily habit even though you do take corticosteroids daily.
Many medicines carry side effects, which is the same with corticosteroids. The most common side effect of corticosteroids is mouth infection, also called thrush. When corticosteroids are left in the mouth or throat, thrush will occur. You can rinse your mouth thoroughly after inhalation to avoid thrush, or you can use some devices to help you avoid it, such as spacers and holding chambers. If patients take it for a long time, inhaled corticosteroids can also add the chances of cataracts and osteoporosis.
You doctor may also prescribe other long-term control medicines for you. They are also designed to prevent you from airway inflammation and improve your airways. And most of them are taken orally. Possible medicines may include leukotriene modifiers, nedocreomil, cromolyn, theophyline or long-acting B2-agonists (require taking with little inhaled corticosteroids).
3) Quick-Relief Medicines
This type of medicines can offer immediate relieves when asthma symptoms occur. One of the commonly used quick-relief medicines is the bronchodilators (inhaled short-acting B2-agonists) that can alleviate tight muscles nearby your airways providing better conditions for air to pass through them.
A quick-relief inhaler can be used when your asthma symptoms are found at the first time. Most patients like to carry a quick relief inhaler all the time, but it shouldn’t be used over two days within one week. Quick-relief medicines are incapable of reducing airway inflammations. So it can’t replace the efficacy of long-term control medicines.
4) Emergency Care
Emergency care is necessary for you when the peak flow becomes less than the normal levels or your medications can’t relieve your asthma attack. You can dial the local emergency number for help or ask others to help you go to the nearest emergency room.
During the emergency care, lifesaving treatment usually contains direct oxygen and added medicines doses. It’s likely for the emergency staff to administer short-acting B-2 agonists, bronchodilators, systemic intravenous or oral steroids, B-2 agonists, inhalation anesthetics, anticholigerics, intravenous magnesium sulfate or the dissociative anesthetic. If you are experiencing respiratory arrest, emergency staff may also wield the intubation or mechanical ventilation to save your life.
Quick-relief medicines is able to relieve the wheezing symptoms of young children, but long-term control medicines should be applied to relieve symptoms of infants or young children who have frequent symptoms after the age of six.
Similar to adults, inhaled corticosteroids, cromolyn and montelukast can also be used in children. Usually, the treatment will last for four to six weeks. If no positive results are noticed, stop this medicine treatment. Perhaps, inhaled corticosteroids will slow down the growth of children, but this side effect is very small and a little noticeable only at the beginning months of the treatment.
Medicines for elderly asthma treatment may interact with each other, so it may be necessary to adjust medications to avoid medical interactions. For example, aspirin, beta blockers, pain relievers or anti-inflammatory medicine are able to inhibit the efficacy of asthma medicines or may exacerbate asthma symptoms. Besides, older people may have a little difficulty to hold their breath for about ten seconds after inhaling medicines. Fortunately, spacers can help older patients to overcome this problem.
Inhaled corticosteroids also increase the risk of osteoporosis, which is more prominent among older asthma sufferers, especially those with weak bones. But they can take vitamin D or calcium pills to keep healthy bones while they are involving with other treatments.
7) Pregnant women
To ensure good oxygen supply of fetus, pregnant women are required to take proper asthma control. Low birth weight and premature birth often happen on babies whose mother is suffering from asthma. Although taking asthma medicines poses many risks to pregnant women, none of them can outweigh the risk linked to asthma attack.
8) Vitamin D
According to a team of researchers in London, they have found that Vitamin D has the ability to lessen asthma symptoms and their discovery may provide a new method for the treatment of debilitating and chronic diseases.
Although steroid tablets are the common medicine prescribed for asthma patients, this medicine may bring out negative side effects. What’s more, there is one kind of asthma that has resistant reaction to steroid treatment. This asthma often has higher risks of severe or fatal asthma attacks.
Researchers found that asthma patients have higher levels of IL-17A. It is a natural compound of immune system, which can protect the bodies from infection. High levels of IL-17A can cut down the side effects of steroids, but it can also aggravate asthma symptoms. Asthma sufferers who have taken steroids have the highest level of IL-17A, but vitamin D can reduce IL-17A generation significantly. So the team believes that vitamin D offers a useful and safe asthma treatment.
5. Non-medical treatments
Many people believe that unconventional alternative treatment can also be helpful to relieve asthma symptoms, but there are no firm evidences about these approaches. Some studies have found that air ionizers, acupuncture, or dust mite controls work little or have no effects on the treatment of lung function or asthma symptoms. Yet, there haven’t had the final conclusions about the effectiveness of osteopathic, physiotherapeutic, chiropractic or respiratory therapeutic methods. Although homeopathy may be able to lighten the severity of asthma symptoms, the evidences are not so supportive.
Disclaimer: The information in this post is designed to promote common knowledge for asthma control. But the authors here are not medically trained. You should not rely upon any information mentioned here to replace individual consultations with your doctor or other qualified health care provider.