World Asthma Day 2022: How to recognise early signs of an asthma attack
World Asthma Day 2022: Recognising the early warning signals of an asthma attack can help stop it altogether or prevent it from worsening.
World Asthma Day 2022: World Asthma Day is celebrated every year on the first Tuesday of May to spread awareness and the day was first observed by Global Initiative for Asthma, a medical guideline organisation founded in 1993. This year the theme is ‘Closing Gaps in Asthma Care'. Asthma, the chronic inflammatory disease of airways, affects 300 million people worldwide and India alone has 15 million asthma patients. (Also read: Infinity walk to pranayama: Yoga expert on tips to manage asthma)
Dr Vivek Anand Padegal, Director – Pulmonology, Fortis Hospitals, Bannerghatta Road says coughing, chest tightness, wheezing, and difficulty breathing are all symptoms of an asthma attack. Explaining how an asthma attack occurs, Dr Padegal explains: "the attack occurs in the airways of your body, which are the passageways that supply air to your lungs, narrowing the swollen airways. Less air enters and exits your lungs, and mucus produced by the body plugs the airways." It is important to recognise early warning signs or changes that might occure before or at the beginning of an asthma attack says the expert.
"The symptoms of an early asthma attack are usually not severe enough to keep you from going about your daily routine. However, by recognising these indications, an asthma attack can be stopped or prevented from worsening," says Dr Padegal.
Here are some of the early warning signals of an asthma attack you must watch out for:
• Extreme coughing, especially at night
• Reduced peak flow metre values
• Shortness of breath
• Fatigue or weakness
• Exercise-induced asthma
• Feeling weary, irritable, grumpy, etc.
• Declined lung function
• Allergy or cold symptoms (sneezing, runny nose, cough, nasal congestion, sore throat, and headache)
• Difficulty sleeping
"Because the intensity of an asthma attack can quickly worsen, it's critical to treat these symptoms as soon as possible," says the expert.
What causes such attacks?
Exposure to certain triggers can cause asthma attacks and they can range from tobacco smoke, dust mites, outdoor air pollution, cockroach allergen, pets, mold, smoke from burning wood or grass, and diseases like the flu. Being aware of your triggers can be key to preventing asthma attacks.
What are the treatment options?
"To keep asthma under control, follow proper prescriptions prescribed by your doctor and avoid things that can provoke an attack. All asthmatics do not take the same medication as some drugs are inhaled, while others must be taken as pills," says Dr Padegal.
The two sorts of asthma medications include those that provide immediate relief and those that provide long-term control.
"Quick-relief drugs are used to control the symptoms of an asthma attack. Long-term control drugs can help you have fewer and milder asthma episodes, but they can't help you when you're having one. Inquire with your doctor about the possible adverse effects of your medications as well," says the expert.
What happens if you don't treat your asthma?
Dr Padegal says of the medication or therapy is not taken asthma can worsen and one's breathing may become more laborious, and wheezing may become louder.
Delayed treatment may cause you to be unable to talk and have a bluish hue around your lips, known as "cyanosis," indicating that your blood is becoming increasingly depleted of oxygen. It can also read to a condition called silent chest.
"Using a peak flow metre during an asthma attack will most likely result in a reading that is lower than your personal best. You may not be able to use the peak flow metre at all if your lungs continue to contract during an asthma episode, also known as the 'silent chest', a warning indicator," says Dr Padegal.
He suggests that in case of a severe asthma attack, getting to the nearest hospital at the earliest is advisable.
When should you see a doctor?
The expert says home treatment may be sufficient if the symptoms and peak expiratory flow (PEF) values improve.
"If your symptoms don't improve after trying home treatments, you may need to seek medical help right once.
Use your quick-acting (rescue) inhaler as directed in your written asthma plan when your asthma symptoms flare-up. PEF values of 51 per cent to 79 per cent of your personal best indicate that you should take the quick-acting medications prescribed by your doctor," concludes Dr Vivek Anand Padegal.