Asthma Questions: Confirming Diagnosis

January 8, 2012 by  
Filed under Asthma Help

Question: I have read up on asthma symptoms and I am concerned that I suffer from the condition. How do I go about obtaining a diagnosis?

Answer:

First and foremost, consult your doctor. If you are experiencing any breathing difficulties at all, it is important to get things checked with your doctor.

At said appointment, your doctor will perform a number of checks to see if they can confirm a diagnosis of asthma:

– Listen To Your Chest

Your doctor will listen to your chest using a conventional stethoscope. Asthma is caused by a narrowing of the airways due to irritation, and this affects the way your breathing sounds. By listening to it, your doctor will have a firm idea of asthma may be the cause of your troubles.

– Perform A Peak Flow Reading

A Peak Flow Meter is a device used to determine the strength at which a person can exhale; someone with asthma is not likely to be able to exhale forcefully, and will have a low peak flow reading. The measurement is taken by blowing in to a small circular tube with a gauge at the top, and takes only a few seconds. This will be a key part of assessing whether or not you have asthma.

– Giving You Inhalers To Try

If the above tests, along with your detailed symptoms, suggest that you may be suffering from asthma, you will begin experimental treatment. Your doctor will prescribe two inhalers for your daily use, and you will return to see them within a fortnight. At this point another Peak Flow reading will be taken; if the reading has improved on the previous one, this is due to the inhalers, confirming you need them and thus confirming asthma.

Asthma Sufferers: What You Should Avoid

January 8, 2012 by  
Filed under Asthma Help

Although asthma is largely controllable with medication, there are certain stimulants that can bring on an attack even if medication has been used. Learning to identify these stimuli and – wherever possible – avoid them is an important part of learning to cope with asthma.

– Smoke: tobacco smoke is a major stimulant of asthma and can in fact worsen the conditions over time.

– Strong cleaning products: any cleaning product that contains strong chemicals is to be avoided. There are plenty of natural product solutions which will leave your home just as clean, but your lungs far more healthy.

– Certain medications: penicillin (primarily used to treat infections) and aspirin (used in pain relief) can exacerbate asthma. Use substitutes wherever possible, such as paracetamol in place of aspirin when you have a headache.

– Swimming pools: not for the water, but for the chlorine. As mentioned with cleaning products, any strong chemical will have an adverse effect on asthma sufferers. Always check with a pool venue before using it to see if the pool is chlorinated.

– Menstrual cycle: women may be more prone to asthma attacks during their menstrual cycle or during pregnancy, due to the hormonal changes and imbalances that occur during this time.

– Stress: an asthma sufferer is far more likely to experience an attack when they are stressed, nervous or panicked than they are when they are feeling emotionally stable. It is especially important to control your temper if you have asthma.

The above is just a brief grounding in the many stimuli of asthma; avoid them wherever possible, and also note down any stimuli that seem applicable to your experiences.

Asthma Questions: The Hygiene Hypothesis

January 8, 2012 by  
Filed under Asthma Help, Featured

Question: I’ve heard something called the “hygiene hypothesis” being referenced when discussing asthma. What is this?

Answer:

The “hygiene hypothesis” is a school of thought presented by certain medical studies, discovered during investigations in to why asthma is seemingly on the rise. While by no means a new condition, cases of asthma have been steadily rising since records began. Certain medical studies have tried to find out why this is, and along with environmental factors, the hygiene hypothesis has been suggested for this rise in cases.

“Hygiene hypothesis” is the term used to describe the fact that, as a species, we are far more hygienic than we have ever been. Most households use strong cleaning products, and young children are not as exposed to dirt and bacteria as they were in the 1950s and 1960s. While this cannot really be seen as a bad things, some studies have suggested that it may have contributed to a rise in asthma cases.

Bacteria in the air, when inhaled, is aggravating – and can cause temporary inflammation of the lungs. This usually manifests itself in coughing. Young children in the earlier parts of the 20th century would have had daily exposure to bacteria due to less rigorous hygiene and cleaning standards; as a result, the bronchi of their lungs would appear irritated. The body would then learn how to deal with this, and calm the bronchi down.

Asthma can essentially be described as a irritation of the bronchi. As children nowadays are not exposed to the same levels of bacteria, their bodies do not learn to ‘calm’ the bronchi in their early life. This, some suggest, has lead to a larger number of asthma cases, as when presented with bacteria now, the body is not as well-versed in how to react.