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Asthma Treatment

The American Lung Association describes asthma as reversible obstructive lung disease.

Intravenous corticosteroids are used to treat serious cases of asthma. [© Shutterstock, 2010]
© Shutterstock, 2010
Intravenous corticosteroids are used to treat serious cases of asthma.

Asthma Treatment

The American Lung Association describes asthma as reversible obstructive lung disease. As of 2006, approximately 22.9 million Americans suffered from asthma or asthma related symptoms. Asthma is life-threatening and can cause death if not treated properly. Asthma affects the airways, causing tightness in the chest, coughing, wheezing and difficulty breathing. Asthma has a variety of triggers with each persons asthma triggers will differ. People who improperly treat their asthma will suffer from quicker lung deterioration and may need emergency medical care.

Causes of Asthma

Mayo Clinic states that the causes of asthma are undetermined, but a mix of genetic and environmental factors play a part. Some common triggers for asthma symptoms or attacks include:

  • Allergens such as dust mites, mold, dander, and pollen
  • Infections or colds that can increase the sensitivity of the lungs and airways
  • Strenuous activity, such as exercise
  • Cold temperatures
  • Air pollutants like smoke and perfume
  • Medications such as aspirin and other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs
  • Emotional stress
  • Gastroesophgeal reflux disease (GERD)
  • A womans menstrual cycle
  • Food allergies

Lifestyle Changes for Asthma Control

While lifestyle changes will not prevent or cure asthma, they can help control and reduce the amount of asthma triggers. Swedish Medical Center recommends controlling allergens that trigger asthma. Some ideas for allergen control include washing bedding in hot water, keeping the house clean and free of dust and mold, using dust-proof bedding materials and removing stuffed animals or toys. Pets should be kept off furniture and bedding and receive regular baths and grooming to help reduce dander. People with severe asthma may need to live in a pet-free home.

Asthma sufferers should also try to reduce air-borne irritants by avoiding perfume or other scented products. Staying indoors or wearing a facemask when pollen is bad can help control these asthma triggers. Sufferers should avoid being around cigarette smoke or any other type of smoke, whether indoors or outdoors. Paint fumes and smells from chemicals and cleaning products should also be avoided. Asthma sufferers should also avoid aspirin and any other over-the-counter medications that cause sensitivities or reactions.

Medicinal Treatments for Asthma

There are long term and short relief medications available for asthma. Asthma sufferers commonly use a combination of long-term medications and short-term relief medications for the best results. Allergy medications may also help reduce the symptoms of asthma or prevent an asthma attack. Medications for asthma include:

Inhaled corticosteroids, commonly called by the brand names Flovent Diskus, Pulmicort, Azmacort, Aerobid and Qvar, help reduce inflammation. These medications are long-term medications with low side effect risk.

Long-acting Beta 2 agonists, commonly called by the brand names Serevent Diskus and Foradil Aerolizer, reduce inflammation and open the airways. This medication can work in conjunction with an inhaled corticosteroid for persistent asthma
Leukotriene modifiers
, commonly called by the brand names Singulair, Accolate and Zyflo CR, reduce inflammation and open the airways. They also help decrease mucous production in the lungs.

Cromolyn and Nedocromil help decrease allergy symptoms. Asthma sufferers take this medication frequently throughout the day and use it in conjunction with an inhaler

Theophylline is a pill that helps open the airways.

Short-acting beta-2 agonists help relax the airways and take effect in minutes. The relief lasts for up to six hours.
Ipratropium is a quick relief medication that allows asthmas sufferers to breathe

Oral and intravenous corticosteroids are for severe asthma and have severe side effects with prolonged use. Doctors may prescribe a short-term treatment using these medications during a severe attack

Natural Treatments for Asthma

Asthma sufferers who prefer a more natural approach to asthma treatment, or who want to incorporate natural treatments along with prescribed medications, have a variety of options available. Dr. Weil, a practitioner of integrative medicine and natural therapies, believes that the steroids commonly used in asthma treatments only lead to more health problems in the future. Some of his suggestions for controlling asthma without medication include avoiding milk, taking an Omega-3 supplement or increasing it in the diet, eating ginger regularly because it has natural anti-inflammatory effects, having a doctor check for GERD and having work done on the chest area to help loosen muscles and break up tension.

People who suffer from exercise-induced asthma should start any exercise routine slowly and returning to a slow pace if feelings of tightness begin. Also, choosing activities that allow for rest periods, such as tennis or golf, may help an asthma sufferer control their breathing while still enjoying physical activities.

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