Asthma is a respiratory disorder that causes the airways to narrow and make breathing difficult. The airways get inflamed after being exposed to irritants and this causes them to become narrow and secrete excess mucus, further constricting the passage and making breathing tough. Irritants that trigger asthma can be dust, pollen, pet hair or feathers, air pollutants, and weather conditions.
Asthma can be mild, moderate or severe. It can also be intermittent (occuring at regular intervals) or persistent (continuing for a prolonged period).
Causes, Signs, and Symptoms:
Asthma is triggered by numerous types of allergens and irritants. It can also be triggered by changing weather, emotional distress, and physical exertion. The most common triggers for asthma are:
- Dust, dust mites, and cockroach particles or droppings
- Air pollution and cigarette smoke
- Pet feathers and hair
- Weather – cold air, heat waves, and dry wet or windy weather
- Spores from fungi and moulds
- Food items
- Workplace triggers like dust from wood and coal, aerosolized paint, etc.
- Emotional distress
- Over exercising
Symptoms of Asthma include:
- Wheezing: This is the most prevalent symptom. It is a whistling sound when you breathe.
- Shortness of breath.
- Difficulty breathing.
- Pain or tightness in the chest and airways.
- A cough that won’t go away.
- Problems in falling and staying asleep because of coughing and wheezing.
How Does Asthma Vary by Season?
Each season brings with it a set of asthma triggers that can aggravate your condition. Let us see how each season causes changes in your asthma symptoms:
Spring: Spring in India occurs between middle of February and early April. Spring is pollen season since flowers are in bloom everywhere. The pollen is a powerful asthma trigger and inflames your airways when you inhale it. Trees and grass release pollen in spring, causing sneezing and runny and itchy noses in both adults and children. This may often be mistaken for a cold. Pollen count is higher in the mornings, so people with asthma should avoid exercising outdoors early in the day.
Summer: Summer season in India is in April and May and often goes on until mid-June. The heat waves and humid air often create more dust. Sunlight acts on particulate matter and vehicular pollution suspended in the air, to create ozone, which is another powerful asthma trigger. Thunderstorms during summer also worsen asthma symptoms as the strong winds spread fungal spores in the air.
Monsoon: July to September is monsoon season in India and the rainwater causes mould spores to break up into microscopic particles that when inhaled, aggravates the asthma. The spores cause the airway linings to get inflamed and result in sneezing, coughing, and production of excess mucus.
Autumn: Autumn in India is very short, lasting from October to November. This is the post-monsoon period when temperatures gradually decrease and the colder air makes the lungs tighten, bringing back the asthma symptoms. This season is also the time when colds and flu spread. When people with asthma catch a cold and flu, their illness becomes more severe and prolonged.
Winter: Winter in India occurs from December to March. December and January are the driest and coldest months. The cold, dry air can exacerbate the symptoms of asthma. People who exercise or walk outside tend to inhale large amounts of the cold air, which is a major trigger for wheezing. In the northern parts of the country, people use heaters or humidifiers in winter. This can increase the amount of indoor triggers that worsen asthma symptoms.
Diagnosis and Treatment:
If your doctor suspects that you might have asthma, he will do a physical exam and get more information about your family history. He may recommend tests to confirm a diagnosis for asthma, such as:
- Spirometry: This test estimates the volume of air you can exhale after taking a deep breath and sees how quickly you can exhale that volume of air.
- Methacholine challenge test: Methacholine is a powerful asthma trigger that constricts the airways when inhaled. If you have a reaction to methacholine, it means you have asthma.
- Exhaled nitric oxide test: This is an exhaled nitric oxide test that determines how inflamed the lungs are and whether the prescribed inhaled steroidal medications are subduing the inflammation.
- Peak Flow: This test measures how forcefully you can breathe out.
Pulmonary function tests such as these are done before and after taking a bronchodilatory medication to see if the medication improves your lung function. If the bronchodilator reduces your symptoms, it means you have asthma.
Treatment for asthma includes keeping track of daily symptoms and the frequency of rescue medicines used, avoiding asthma triggers, long-term asthma control drugs like inhalable corticosteroids, inhaler combinations, and drugs like leukotriene modifiers and beta agonists that help clear the airways, and give immediate relief from asthma symptoms for 24 hours.
If you suffer from symptoms like shortness of breath, tightness in the chest, blocked airways with change with the weather or wheezing, you should get tested for asthma right away. You can book an appointment now through Medlife Labs for tests like methacholine test, spirometry, peak flow, and other pulmonary function tests. Medlife also makes things convenient by offering affordable health check-up packages and sample collection from your home. Call 7022000900 to schedule a Free home sample collection.
Also Read: Best Home Remedies for Asthma Cough