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The purpose of this article is to give a brief overview of asthma, including asthma symptoms, asthma medication, and asthma in children in addition to a look at asthma treatment options.  As always, should you require immediate medical attention or require extremely reliable medical advice, it is important that you consult with a trained and qualified health care professional such as your family physician.  This article should be considered as a potential starting point in the information gathering process about a condition and as such should be supplemented by as many reliable informational resources as is feasible for one’s interest.  Should you be suffering an asthma attack, it is recommended that you consult with a health care professional as soon as possible.


For those who are unaware of what asthma is generally, it is a manageable, chronic condition that is characterised by the occurrences of asthma attacks.  An asthma attack occurs as a result of an inflammation of the bronchial tubes in your lungs.  When these tubes are inflamed, they tend to tighten and in addition a mucus appears that makes breathing more difficult as it is through these very bronchial tubes that the air to and from your lungs must pass.  Generally, these attacks are characterised by a wheezing or labored breathing that in some cases can be life threatening.  As a result, it is important to note that although asthma and childhood asthma are common disorders, it is nonetheless a potentially very serious one and should be treated as such.


Asthma has gained more notice of late in the media as a result of increased attention to climate change and the role that air pollution has not only on the health of the planet but on the health of those living on it.  It is a common thought that decreased air quality, particularly as a result of air pollution, may be a contributing factor to the presence of asthma in populations.  Although research into these possibilities is always ongoing, it is perhaps in this context that many people will come into contact with media discussions surrounding asthma.


Asthma Signs and Symptoms


Asthma Symptoms are varied and can range from very mild symptoms characterised by wheezing type breathing all the way up to very severe asthma attacks.  According to the Mayo Clinic, these attacks are in most cases preceded by identifiable warning signs and it is through paying close attention to these warning assigns that asthma attacks can potentially be avoided or at the very least prevented from becoming worse than they might otherwise be.  In adults, these warning signs include an shortness of breath that may disturb sleep or cause a coughing or wheezing coupled with a potential pain in the chest with accompanying tightness, an increased use of bronchodilator medications or a fall in the rate of air flow in the lungs as measured by a monitoring device known as a ‘peak flow meter.’  The asthma attack proper is characterised by spasmodic coughing fits, which, as previously mentioned, can be very serious.


What causes asthma?


In general asthma is caused by two interrelated factors: environment and heredity.  Although there is obviously very little that can be done about heredity, or genetic, factors, it is important to note some of the environmental factors that may trigger the symptoms that precede and ultimately cause an asthma attack.  There are physical factors such as physical exercise, the results of stress or emotional states, infections of the respiratory tract, or a reaction to cold air, sinusitis, or GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease) can all contribute.  Some chemicals with heavy scents, and medications like beta blockers, aspirin, sulfites, some preservatives and anti-inflammatory pharmaceuticals that are nonsteroidal can cause the onset of an attack.  There are other environmental factors include insects such as cockroaches and dust mites, air pollution and other airborne irritants such as smoke, pollen or animal, such as cat, dander and the presence of mold, and others can cause asthmatic symptoms.


There are many risk factors that can increase the likelihood that you will develop asthma which includes unhealthy or asthmatically problematic lifestyles that include smoking, working in manufacturing, farming, electronics or hairdressing.  Living in an urban area can be deleterious due to potentially poor air quality.  As mentioned there are genetic factors, and so if one or both parents have asthma there is an increased likelihood that you may also develop asthma.  Although there are other factors, it is important that you consult a trained health care professional for a more comprehensive set of risk factors and diagnostic criteria.


Asthma Treatments


There are a number of types of medications for those looking to manage the symptoms associated with asthma and these include those that are for allergy-induced asthma, which affect the immune system, quick-relief medications that are for immediate use in the case of an asthma attack and long-term-control medications that are meant for regular use in order to prevent chronic symptoms and to decrease the likelihood of an asthma attack occurring.


Long-term control medications come in a number of different types.  There are inhaled corticosteroids, which are anti-inflammatory medications and are the most effective.  There are also long-acting beta-2 agonists, also known as LABAs that are also known as bronchodilators, although some of these medications may have deleterious side effects and it is important to consult a physician about them.  In addition there are Leukotriene modifiers, cromolyn and nedocromil, a fuller discussion of which are outside the purview of this particular article.  Some quick-relief medications include short-acting beta-2 agonists, Atrovent (ipratropium), as well as oral and intravenous corticosteroids all of which are used in the case of the immediate onset of an asthma attack.  Finally, the medications used to treat allergy triggered asthma include immunotherapy, anti-IgE monoclonal antibodies, and others, all of which essentially function by working with the body’s immune system in order to ensure that asthma attacks are not as severe or are suppressed as a result of an exposure to a potential environmental and allergic trigger for one’s asthma.