The Ins and Outs of Asthma Treatment

Although asthma is defined as a chronic (i.e. long term) illness, it is not usually life threatening – and for most sufferers becomes more of an annoyance than a genuine threat to their well-being. As one of the most common non-life-threatening illnesses in the world, asthma is well studied by medical research scientists, and as a result there are several treatments available.

By far the best known asthma treatment is via medicine inhalation. The primary medicines used in inhalers are beta-2 agonists (for relieving an acute attack of asthma) and corticosteroids (for preventing attacks). These medications come in a variety of doses depending on the severity of the sufferers’ condition, and are inhaled directly in to the lungs using an inhaler (sometimes known as a ‘puffer’). As these treatments go directly to the source of the issue by entering the lungs immediately, they have long been proven to be the most effective asthma treatment.

Another option is steroid treatment, usually in tablet form. However, a course of steroids is usually only ever prescribed following a severe asthma attack – usually of the kind of severity that results in hospitalization The vast majority of sufferers will never need anything beyond their combination of inhalers to deal with their illness.

The concluding option is also only used in the case of a severe attack, though is an option during the attack rather than following it. Nebulizers create a mixture of water and air, through which one can inhale a purer form of the usual medication used in inhalers. Nebulizers tend to be carried on emergency calls and at hospitals, though some sufferers’ of extremely severe asthma may be offered one at home.

Asthma Questions: Which Inhaler Is Which?

Question: I know that inhalers comes in two different specifications: “reliever” inhalers, for when an attack hits, and “prevention” inhalers for general use. However, I am worried that in the panic of an attack I will forget which is which. How do I identify between the two, and if I do accidentally use my “prevention” inhaler during an attack, is it going to cause any problems?

Answer:

First and foremost: no, there is no harm in using a preventative inhaler during an asthma attack. It will not worsen the attack or make you feel unwell in any other way. The only issue (if one can call it that) with using a preventative inhaler during an acute asthma attack is that it will not actively help with calming the attack; for that, you need the “reliever” inhaler.

As for telling the difference between the two inhalers, it depends largely on the country you are in. In some countries, the inhalers are placed in canisters which differ in colour. Most typically, the “reliever” inhaler will be in a blue delivery tube, and the “preventer” will be in a brown version. You may need to specifically request this from your chemist, so it is worth checking to see if colour-specific inhalers are available to you. The difference in colour should solve the problem of knowing which one to grab in a rush.

If the colour-specific canisters are not available, then use a labelling system or – better yet – a substance like nail polish to make each canister look different.

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.