About one out of every 13 Americans — both adults and children — are living with asthma. Each day, an average of 10 people die from asthma, according to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA). With proper care and awareness, many of those deaths could have been prevented.
Is Your Asthma Getting Worse?
If you are concerned your or your child’s asthma has gotten worse, the first step to finding a solution is to determine a cause. Asking these questions can help:
- Are you using your preventative inhaler as directed?
- Are you using your inhaler in the proper way?
- Have you been around any asthma triggers?
- Could you have encountered a new asthma trigger?
- Have there been any other changes in your life that could be causing the asthma flare-up?
- For women, hormonal changes can aggravate asthma. Have you experienced any hormonal changes?
It is also important to watch for common signs that your asthma is worsening such as:
- Feeling more breathless
- Coughing more
- Not sleeping well
- Tightness in the chest
- Increased wheezing
- Using relief inhaler more than usual
- Not being able to do everyday activities
Paying Attention to Asthma Triggers
Each person with asthma may have different triggers that cause an attack. There are some common triggers, however. These include allergens such as mold, dust mites, dog dander, cockroach dander, and pollen. Other triggers are common irritants like dust, chemicals, smoke, and car exhaust.
Additionally, conditions like sinus inflammation or gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) can cause lung inflammation that will make asthma worse.
Identifying your personal triggers can help you in making lifestyle modifications. For instance, if dust is a trigger, you may want to switch to hardwood floors where possible in your home. This will help you avoid carpets that can trap dust. If pollen is a problem, you can check weather apps to see when tree, grass, or weed pollens are high and limit your time outdoors.
How Serious is Your Asthma Flare-up?
Flare-ups can vary in intensity. Consider using a peak flow meter to measure your peak expiratory flow (PEF). Over a two-week period of well-controlled asthma, you can use the meter to determine your personal best peak flow.
During a mild flare-up, your PEF will be about 80 to 100% of your best. You may notice such symptoms as shortness of breath when walking or exercising and some wheezing.
A moderate flare-up may cause shortness of breath when talking, the use of neck muscles to help take deeper breaths, and loud wheezing. During this phase, your PEF will register between 50 to 80% of your best. You should seek urgent medical treatment if a moderate flare is not controlled with the use of your current asthma regimen.
A severe flare-up will result in a PEF of less than 50%, difficulty breathing even when still, and feelings of anxiety or sleepiness. If you experience a severe flare-up, you should seek treatment immediately.
Columbia Allergy takes a patient-focused approach that views every person as an individual with unique challenges and goals. If you are seeking treatment for asthma or allergies, including desensitization treatments for shrimp and nut allergies, contact us at any of our convenient locations in California, Oregon, Idaho, or Washington.
This is not medical advice. Make sure to consult a medical professional for a diagnosis.