By TE Cunningham
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, over five million children under 18 suffer from asthma. Even with its prevalence, it’s a chronic disease that is widely misunderstood, sometimes even by the parents of afflicted children.
Asthma affects the respiratory system with spasms in the bronchi of the lungs, causing difficulty in breathing. It usually results from an allergic reaction or other forms of hypersensitivity. It can be mild or quite severe.
There are several types of asthma:
- Adult-Onset Asthma: Asthma that develops in adulthood.
- Allergic Asthma: Asthma is triggered by exposure to the same substances that trigger allergy symptoms.
- Asthma-COPD Overlap: Asthma-COPD overlap syndrome means the individual has symptoms of asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
- Exercise-Induced Bronchoconstriction Asthma: Asthma narrows the airways, causing difficulty in moving air out of the lungs during exercise.
- Non-allergic Asthma: Asthma is triggered by various non-allergic factors like stress, cold or dry air, smoke, anxiety, viruses or infections and more.
- Occupational Asthma: Asthma is caused by exposure to inhaled irritants in the workplace, which is sometimes reversible if the irritant is removed from the work environment.
With all these different asthma types and other afflictions that mimic the same symptoms, asthma can sometimes be challenging to diagnose. Other factors that can cause similar symptoms include allergies, exercise, stress, colds, chemicals and more. Asthma, especially in children, can sometimes go away over time as well.
The symptoms and can also come and go, primarily if they are related to a specific irritant. An individual can also have asthma and not suffer from wheezing. A chronic cough can be another indicator of asthma.
In all forms of asthma, the lungs’ airway tubes become irritated. They also narrow. This makes it difficult for the person to get air in and out of their lungs, which produces the wheezing and shortness of breath you have probably witnessed. It can be excruciating and scary, especially to small children who don’t understand what is happening.
According to Newman Regional Health, of the estimated 24 million people in the US living with asthma, 60 percent of adults and 80 percent of children have asthma trigger by allergies.
The good news is that once asthma is diagnosed, it is relatively easy to treat. If triggers are identified, a plan can be made to manage them. There are a variety of medicines to treat asthma as well, including a steroid inhaler.
If you think you or someone you love may have asthma, consult your primary care physician about the next steps. You will likely be referred to a specialist.