Asthma

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What is it?

Asthma is a long-term lung condition.  People with asthma have sensitive airways in their lungs which react to triggers, causing a ‘flare-up’. In a flare-up, the muscles around the airway squeeze tight, the airways swell and become narrow and there is more mucus. These things make it harder to breathe.

An asthma flare-up can come on slowly (over hours, days or even weeks) or very quickly (over minutes). A sudden or severe asthma flare-up is sometimes called an asthma attack.

Triggers can be anything from exercise, allergies or smoking, to respiratory infections or the cold weather; plus many others. Not everyone has the same triggers however they can all have a big impact on your asthma and quality of life.

One in nine people in Australia has asthma. It affects people of all ages. Some people get asthma when they are young; others when they are older. Chances are, even if you don’t have asthma yourself, you know someone who has Asthma.

Asthma cannot be cured, but for most people it can be well controlled by following a daily management plan.

 

What are the symptoms?

 

A person’s asthma symptoms can vary over time – sometimes they will have no symptoms, especially when their asthma is well-controlled. Symptoms often vary from person to person, but they are most commonly:

  • breathlessness
  • wheezing /audible breathing
  • tight feeling in the chest
  • continuing cough

 

Symptoms often occur at night, early in the morning or during/just after activity. They are caused by the narrowing of the airways.

If your asthma is well controlled, you should only have occasional asthma symptoms.

The recommended guide to go by is if you are experiencing symptoms or having to use your reliever more than 2 times per week or more than 3 times in one day, your asthma is not well controlled and needs to be reviewed by your Doctor or Respiratory Nurse.

If your Asthma is left untreated for too long, is can have serious implications on your health, and in extreme cases can lead to death; more so in older adults and young children.  Most of the deaths caused by asthma are preventable however, simply by having your asthma reviewed regularly, maintaining good control through using your inhalers regularly and following your Asthma Action Plan, being aware of your symptoms and calling for help early.

What can I do to manage my asthma?

  • Have an Asthma Action Plan and Asthma Care Plan done by your Respiratory Nurse and Doctor
  • Take your Inhalers regularly (Reliever, and Preventer, if prescribed)
  • Learn how to use your inhalers and spacer correctly, so they work the best they can for you
  • Know your Triggers and be aware of your symptoms
  • Reduce the triggers in your environment
  • Act on your symptoms early; prevent them from occurring rather than reacting to you symptoms
  • See your Doctor or Respiratory Nurse regularly for an asthma review, especially if your symptoms worsen

 

What is a reliever?

A reliever inhaler, relaxes the muscles that squeeze on your airways, making them tight. This is used to relieve your asthma symptoms, and for emergencies also, when you are suffering an asthma attack.

What is a preventer?

A preventer inhaler, is used to prevent your symptoms from occurring, and lowers the severity of your symptoms. A preventer reduces the inflammation and narrowing in your airways, along with reducing mucous or phlegm production, which can block your airways.

 

 What is a spacer, and why should I use one?

A spacer is a holding chamber, with filters designed for use with aerosol inhalers. It is usually made of clear plastic and is in the shape of a tube or football. They come in all kinds of different sizes.

Most inhalers require use with a spacer to allow for better uptake of the medication.

If you use your aerosol/spray inhalers without a spacer, the medication is released too fast. It hits the back of your mouth and collects on your tongue, your mouth and in your stomach, where it is not useful. As you can see below, only a small amount actually enters the lungs when used without a spacer.

A spacer allows you to take your time spraying and inhaling your medication, allowing you to get a much better uptake of the medicine, slow your breathing to prevent hyperventilating, and does not require as much coordination with your hands and mouth. This makes it especially easier for young children or the elderly, as their hands may not be as strong or coordinated as an adult.

                                       

 

Spacers are relatively inexpensive and can be purchased from and Pharmacy.

 

How can we help?

At the Panaceum Group, we offer advice for your asthma. We have Nurses who can provide education about your asthma, device technique along with answering any questions you may have.

We provide respiratory testing through the use of spirometry and which can help better your diagnosis. Our Doctors are able to help you from start to finish with any Asthma issues you may be having.