I recently attended to a patient who presented with a cough and mild difficulty breathing. I asked if she had any prior history of asthma, which she denied. After listening to her chest, I asked again if she’d ever been diagnosed with asthma, and this time she smiled and said yes, but that was when she was much younger, and she has been cured.
It is important to know that asthma, which is a disease of the airways, currently has no cure.
It is possible for the number of episodes to significantly decrease as a person grows older. You can be attack-free for a long time, depending on the severity of the disease. However, a sudden attack can recur.
Tips to remember to prevent and control asthma
- Identify what triggers your symptoms and avoid them. Many people have common triggers like dust, harsh chemicals, etc. For some, it may be triggered by exercise or stress.
- Using your medicine in the proper way ensures that it reaches the airways and provides relief.
- Quit smoking and avoid exposure to smoke. Smoking worsens the symptoms of asthma and increases the frequency of attacks. The medicines used for controlling asthma also have a decreased effect on smokers.
- Take your medications as prescribed. People have different severity levels of asthma, and sometimes you may need more than one medicine to control your symptoms.
- Maintaining a healthy body weight helps reduce the number of asthma attacks. Also, exercise helps boost your immunity and strengthen the muscles involved in breathing. Make sure your asthma is well controlled and speak to your doctor so that you can be guided on how to safely exercise. Avoid getting sick by washing your hands regularly and protecting yourself when around people with symptoms of a cold.
What are rescue inhalers, and what are they used for?
This is a medicine used to quickly relieve the symptoms of asthma and other diseases that cause obstruction of the airway.
The most common rescue inhalers contain the drug salbutamol. While this medicine is mostly safe for use in adults, children and pregnant women should check with a doctor before commencing it.
How and when is it used?
The recommended dosage is 1-2 puffs when needed. Can be used up to four times in a 24-hour period.
This medicine is only used when needed, i.e., when you are having symptoms or about to engage in an activity that makes you breathless.
When having a sudden attack, your rescue inhaler can be used to get relief.
- You should shake the inhaler and wait for 30 seconds between each puff.
- Tilt your head slightly backward and ensure you make a tight seal with your lips around the mouthpiece.
- In children younger than 6 years, it’s often difficult to use an inhaler without the use of a spacer. This is a device that makes it easier for the medicine to get into the lungs in an adequate dose.
- If there’s little or no relief after using it up to four times, it may indicate that the asthma has become more severe and you require additional treatment. Seek medical care.
Are there side effects?
When the inhaler is used too much, you may notice symptoms like palpitations, headaches, and dizziness. These side effects are not dangerous and usually improve within 30 minutes.
Serious side effects are rare but may occur. If you have chest pain and an abnormal heartbeat, you need to be taken to the hospital. Also, inform your doctor of any other medications that you may be currently taking.