Breathing Difficulties Could Be Early Signs Of Asthma

Michelle Hopkins

When normal daily activities, such as carrying groceries in from the car, cause you to be out of breath, you may be seeing symptoms of asthma. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 18 million people in the U.S. have asthma. The symptoms often start out gradually, but can become severe enough that simply walking across a room is a challenge. Learn how to spot the signs of asthma, and see your family doctor before this disease takes your breath away.

More Than Just A Severe Allergy

Asthma causes your body to react to substances much like an allergy. Stress, anxiety and physical exertion can also trigger an attack. It can cause the tissues in your throat to swell and the muscles to tighten so you have to fight to breathe. In the worst episodes, your airway could close entirely so you can't get air into your lungs.

Asthma Attack Triggers

Some of the same materials that cause an allergic reaction can cause an asthma attack such as:

  • mold, mildew, dust and pollen
  • dog and cat saliva, hair and dander
  • strong perfume scents
  • cleaning chemical scents
  • cigarette smoke

Other triggers which are unique to asthma attacks include:

  • respiratory illnesses such as colds and flu
  • changes in the weather that cause a fluctuation in the air pressure
  • some prescription medicines that treat throat and lungs illnesses
  • anxiety, stress and panic attacks
  • physical exercise, work or recreational activities

All of these triggers tend to invoke an immediate response in someone with asthma. The reaction can quickly become worse, and sometimes life-threatening in severe cases.

The Symptoms of an Asthma Attack

Some people can have a mild case of asthma and write off their symptoms as a simple allergy. Other people have severe breathing difficulties with each asthma attack. The same trigger can invoke different reactions with each exposure to the trigger. Some of the typical symptoms during an asthma attack include:

  • swollen airway
  • excess mucous in the throat
  • rapid or heavy breathing
  • pressure in the chest
  • coughing or sneezing
  • gulping or gasping for air

Treatment of Asthma

There is no cure for asthma, so the treatment is focused on minimizing the symptoms and making breathing easier. Your doctor has a number of medications with which to treat your asthma symptoms. Some are used long-term to prevent asthma attacks and others reduce the affects of a sudden, severe episode.

Anti-Inflammatory Drugs - These drugs reduce the swelling in your throat and esophagus and the excess mucous production. They are often used when you feel an asthma attack coming on to prevent it from becoming serious.

Bronchodilators - These are often used as an inhaler to relax the throat muscles at the very start of an asthma attack. They are also used to prevent symptoms before engaging in stressful or physical activities that could trigger an attack.

Prednisone - This is a steroid used to treat a severe attack where you can't catch your breath. Your doctor or emergency room will use this, or you may be given a dose for use in an emergency. This will allow you to breathe better while the asthma attack subsides.

See your doctor at places like Green & Seidner Family Practice if you have any difficulty breathing after normal activity levels. Get screened for asthma and start watching for those triggers that are most likely to set off an asthma attack.