More than 26 million Americans have asthma, including 6.1 million children. This makes asthma the third leading cause of hospitalization for children, according to the American Lung Association. Asthma is a chronic condition that causes the airways to become inflamed or constricted making it difficult for a person to breathe. You may have experienced asthma with yourself or through a family member. A person may be fine one minute and gasping for breath the next, making the condition very scary and potentially life threatening.
Although some may develop asthma without a known cause, it is thought that the condition can be inherited. Additionally, other risk factors for asthma include exposure to air pollution, cigarette smoke, previous allergic reactions, previous heartburn or respiratory conditions and even obesity. Due to the extensive list of triggers, asthma can actually develop at any age. Some can even develop temporary asthma symptoms during a viral or bacterial infection.
A variety of symptoms can occur with asthma. It is important to see your family physician to be evaluated as soon as possible if you notice frequent coughing, trouble sleeping, wheezing/whistling during breaths, trouble ‘catching your breath’, or chest tightness. SEEK EMERGENCY CARE if your child exhibits the previous symptoms constantly or you notice your child’s nostrils flaring or using abdominal muscles to breath.
When you visit your physician you may encounter pulmonary function testing to measure how you are breathing. The most common test utilizes spirometry that measures your lung capacity. Following the lung assessment, your physician may then order other tests to determine the cause of your asthma. These tests can be extensive and may include bloodwork and/or allergy testing.
There are many medications designed to control asthma. The most well-known is the rescue inhaler. The rescue inhaler typically contains ‘Albuterol’ that immediately opens the airways to breath more efficiently. Other preventative medications that may be prescribed can include inhaled corticosteroids, combination inhalers and/or oral medications to assist with allergies or opening the airways. It is vital that patients with asthma use their long-acting medications to decrease their incidents of asthmatic episodes.
In conclusion, asthma is a chronic condition that can potentially affect individuals on a daily basis. With the right medications it is possible to control asthma symptoms and live a full and healthy life.
The Children with Medical Handicaps program can help families with medical cost for many medical conditions including asthma. If you have any questions, please contact Angie Rosler RN (740) 992-6626 ext: 1075.
Angie Rosler, RN, is the Children with Medical Handicaps nurse at the Meigs County Health Department.