When I was younger, I was a frequent visitor at the Emergency Department. And no, it was not because I enjoyed the hospital! It was because of my asthma.
It seemed that my asthma would get worse during certain times of the year and so my mom and dad would have to rush me to the emergency room. Sure, I took medicine on a daily basis to prevent and treat my asthma, but sometimes it wouldn’t help. At slumber parties, I would take my breathing machine and use it while all of my friends watched in amazement as the machine created a “steam” for me to inhale.
Asthma is a chronic disease that affects your airways. The airways are the tubes that carry air in and out of your lungs. If you have asthma, the inside walls of your airways can become inflamed, which makes the airways very sensitive, and they tend to react strongly to things that you are allergic to or find irritating. When the airways react, they get narrower, and less air flows through to your lung tissue. This causes symptoms like wheezing, coughing, chest tightness, and trouble breathing, especially at night and in the early morning.
We also know that there are certain things that may make one more likely to develop asthma such as: a family history of asthma; frequent respiratory infections as a child; exposure to secondhand smoke; living in an urban area, especially if there's a lot of air pollution; exposure to occupational triggers, such as chemicals used in farming, hairdressing and manufacturing; low birth weight; and being overweight.
People with asthma and or caregivers of people with asthma must understand the importance of using medicine for asthma correctly and learn about simple things that they can do that might prevent asthma attacks, such as:
— Use your air conditioner. If you don't have air conditioning, try to keep your windows closed during pollen season.
— Minimize dust that may aggravate nighttime symptoms by replacing certain items in your bedroom. For example, use dust proof covers for pillows, mattresses and box springs.
— Keep indoor air clean. Have a utility company check your air conditioner and furnace once a year. Change the filters in your furnace and air conditioner according to the manufacturer's instructions.
— Reduce pet dander. If you're allergic to dander, avoid pets with fur or feathers.
— Clean regularly. Clean your home at least once a week. If you're likely to stir up dust, wear a mask or have someone else do the cleaning.
Other tips for controlling asthma are exercising (with your doctor’s approval), maintaining a healthy weight and controlling heartburn or reflux.
Hopefully, these tips will help you avoid the Emergency Department and improve your asthma.
— Sarah Gray is the Information and Communications Director for the Robeson County Health Department. You may contact her at email@example.com or at (910) 671-3442.