Reduce Asthma Attacks
Chronic asthma affects millions of people every year, and researchers are busy finding ways to reduce asthma attacks for those patients in several ways while they are still trying to find out what causes the disease. While adults also suffer from this problem, about five million children under eighteen years of age report having had an attack of asthma in the last twelve months. This illness is the most common cause of school absenteeism due to chronic disease.
Doctors don't know exactly how a person gets this disease, but they do know that once a person has it, the lungs react to things that can start an attack. A cold or other respiratory infection will trigger an attack in some people. Others might suffer chronic asthma because of something in their environment that their lungs react to. Patients usually have a pretty good idea what to avoid after they have had a few episodes. Smoke from cigarettes or cigars is often the culprit, and dust is a common cause. One study in California found that children living near freeways were frequently victims of the illness, suggesting that the fumes from vehicles are a contributing factor.
When the irritants reach the lungs, the cells in the bronchial tubes make more mucus than normal, and it's thick and sticky. The consistency of the mucus clogs up the tubes, and they swell. The muscles in the air tubes tighten, causing them to narrow, which restricts air flow. These attacks can be severe, moderate, or mild in nature. Even a mild attack can be a frightening experience, so doctors try to help patients to reduce asthma attacks any way they can.
Environmental changes are among the first things an asthmatic can put in place. Where smoke is the trigger, insisting that smokers not indulge around the asthmatic is an important step. Dust is not quite so easily removed, but someone with chronic asthma will follow some basic rules to take care of that problem. Keeping a home dust free takes diligence, but can be done with frequent cleaning with cloths that pick up the dust rather then just spreading it around. Flannel and wool clothing can only be worn immediately after washing or cleaning, and blankets can be covered with sheets so none of their lint will be free to irritate the asthmatic. When pets are part of the environment, and are proven to be a trigger, they must be kept out of the bedroom of the asthma patient and kept outside if possible.
An allergist can determine exactly what the causes are for a particular individual, so he can reduce asthma attacks by avoiding those things. Exercise, which is generally good for everyone, can sometimes be the trigger, and so can stress. This illness can be controlled with steroids that reduce inflammation of tissues in the airway, by bronchial dilators that relax constricted muscles, or both. Physicians routinely prescribe those medications for their patients, but they emphasize prevention for their patients. Scripture reminds us not to lose heart when suffering from illness. "Why art thou cast down, O my soul? and why art thou disquieted within me? hope thou in God: for I shall yet praise him, who is the health of my countenance, and my God." (Psalm 42:11)
Asthma attacks come on quite suddenly, and most patients do not recognize signs of an impending episode until it is in progress. There have been some isolated studies with college students that suggest that people can be trained to recognize the onset of an attack by as much as thirty minutes before it begins. That kind of warning can be very helpful to a patient. This approach to treatment of chronic asthma has not been widely tested yet, though, so the training will not be available to the average patient for quite some time.
One of the Internet sites that comes up when searching for information about how to reduce asthma attacks discusses a bill before Congress that will award grants to pilot projects to prevent and control asthma symptoms and reduce asthma attacks. Families with patients suffering from this illness might want to ask their Senators and Representatives to support this bill. Considering the nationwide cost of medications and treatment for this illness every year, this seems like a good way to help cut suffering and costs.
Another research project has determined that a certain antibiotic used to treat chronic bronchitis will also speed up the recovery of patients from chronic asthma attacks. Apparently the antibiotics have a beneficial anti-inflammatory effect on the airways of patients. The patients who received the antibiotic recovered in half the time it took patients who received standard treatment. Since further research is necessary to establish how the antibiotic acts to relieve symptoms from asthma attacks, current clinical treatments will remain in place until that is done. It certainly gives hope to patients that their future treatments may be more effective.