How Does Asthma Affect the Body?

Asthma is a chronic respiratory condition that causes your airways in the lungs to become narrow, resulting in inflammation and difficulty breathing. It also causes symptoms like wheezing, coughing, breathlessness, and chest tightness. Sometimes, it can even be life-threatening. There is no cure for asthma; you can only try to reduce the frequency of asthma attacks and alleviate the symptoms. 

How Does Asthma Affect the Body?

During normal respiration, the inner lining of your airways remains thin, and the muscles around the air tubes are relaxed. This keeps the airways wide open, thus resulting in free flow of air through the lungs during inhalation and exhalation. People who have asthma have difficulty breathing because the inner linings of their airways are thickened and inflamed, and the muscles around these tubes are tightened. Excessively thick and sticky mucus is produced and the air passages become clogged. Whenever you breathe, less air passes through the narrowed airways, thus resulting in stressful respiration.

You can watch this video for better understanding of how asthma affects the body:

How Does Asthma Affect the Specific Groups of People?

1.   Children

Children may not be able to tell that their breathing is worsening, and the coughing or wheezing are not always the first signs of distress. How does asthma affect the body of a child? Here are some indications of an asthmatic attack in children:

  • Fast breathing
  • Unusual tiredness
  • Restlessness
  • Crankiness
  • Looking scared
  • Skin pale and sweaty
  • Slouching

2.   Elderly

Asthma can cause severe complications in the elderly. While a younger adult may only experience wheezing and coughing, symptoms may become severe as one gets older. Older people may have severe breathlessness and weakened body immunity. They may become more susceptible to infection, as well as anxiety or depression. With chronic asthma attacks, conditions such as bronchitis and other respiratory and cardiac problems may develop.

3.   Pregnant Women

How does asthma affect the body of a mom-to-be? Pregnant women have an increased risk of complications when they have asthma attacks. These include vaginal hemorrhage, premature labor, preeclampsia, eclampsia, and stillbirth. Asthma attacks during pregnancy increase the production of acid in the blood, which may reduce oxygen supply both to the mother and the baby.

How to Manage Asthma

1.   Avoid Asthma Triggers

Know what makes your asthma worse and avoid them. The triggers may include:

  • Certain health conditions such as colds, flu, or acid reflux
  • Allergies to food or medicines
  • Cigarette smoke
  • Pollen from grass, weeds, flowers or trees
  • Extreme temperatures and high humidity
  • Air pollution
  • Cockroaches, rodents or dust mites
  • Dander or saliva from pets
  • Mold
  • Intense exercise
  • Strong emotions/stress
  • Strong odors

2.   Understand Your Peak Flow and Monitor It

Your peak flow tells you how open the airways are when you exhale and this can be measured using a peak flow meter. Use this device to track the severity of you asthma or to monitor the progress of your treatment. This will help your doctor adjust your treatments. Your best or highest peak flow rate can occur over a few weeks of proper treatment. Evaluate your response to treatment by comparing your day-by-day peak flow rate with your best reading.

3.   Treat Asthma

After the answer to "how does asthma affect the body?" here are also treatment options for asthma. There is no cure for asthma, but medicines can help improve most of your symptoms. Long-acting medications or “controller” medicines reduce swelling of the airways and mucus production. They help prevent asthma attacks. These medicines include corticosteroids which help reduce inflammation. They are often used daily as your doctor prescribes, even when you are not sick. Some examples of long-acting medicines to control symptoms are:

  • Fluticasone/Salmeterol
  • Mometasone/Formoterol
  • Fluticasone
  • Beclomethasone
  • Montelukast
  • Budesonide/Formoterol

Short-acting medications or “rescue” medicines relax your airway muscles and provide quick relief of symptoms. These are taken when asthma symptoms occur and may be used before exercise to prevent symptoms. However, they don’t reduce inflammation. Some examples of short-acting medicines include:

  • Albuterol
  • Levalbuterol

Your doctor may also prescribe other treatments. Take medications only as directed by your doctor.

4.   Follow an Individual Asthma Action Plan

This action plan is created by you and your doctor to help manage your condition. It includes instructions to help you stay healthy and manage your asthma symptoms. These may be printed on a handy card which you can keep in your wallet or a plan that is uploaded as an app on a smartphone. Review the action plan with your doctor after every asthma attack or every six months. The action plan includes:

  • Your daily medications
  • Signs that tell you if you are developing an asthma attack and how to manage it
  • Serious symptoms that should prompt you to call for medical help
  • ŸEmergency information about what to do during an asthma attack

5.   Live a Healthy Life

  • Get regular exercise. You can stay active while getting treatment to control asthma attacks. Regular exercise helps strengthen your lungs and heart, which can help reduce asthma symptoms. If you have to exercise in cold weather, wear a mask to make the air you breathe warm.
  • ŸLose excess weight. Obesity can worsen your symptoms and increase your risk for other health problems.
  • ŸGet treatment for heartburn or gastroesophageal reflux disease if you have it. Heartburn can damage the airways and worsen your asthma. Ask your doctor for treatment of heartburn if your asthma symptoms do not improve.
  • ŸQuit smoking. Cigarette smoking is a major trigger for asthma because it contains several toxic chemicals. Most people who have asthma start becoming wheezy in a room full of smoke, so avoid cigarette smoke at all times.
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