Asthma is a condition that is caused by inflammation and narrowing of
the airways. This results from the contraction of the muscles lining them and causes
breathing difficulties particularly in breathing out.
What to look for
These symptoms are not always
present. It is not completely understood why some people get asthma, however, it is known
that asthma is made worse by certain irritants called trigger factors.
Inflammation of the airways
is the bodys reaction to these triggers and this results in an asthma attack. Some
people only suffer very mild attacks and for others the condition is serious enough to
warrant specialised medical care.
If you have asthma, you
should be monitored by a Health Professional regularly, and you must seek immediate
medical intervention for a serious episode. By identifying your triggers, you can learn to
lessen the intensity and frequency of asthma attacks and perhaps even avoid them
Asthma is not a problem with
breathing in, but with breathing out. During an asthma episode, muscle spasms and swelling
bronchial tissues narrow the lungs' tiny airways, which then become clogged with excess
mucus. Stale air gets trapped in the bottom of the lungs, forcing you to use the top part
to gasp for air. Mild and moderate episodes consist of short incidents of breathlessness
and wheezing. In severe cases, the lungs' airways become so narrow and clogged that
breathing is impossible.
Asthma is fairly common. Up
to one in every 10 adults and about one in every 5 children and young people are affected
If you have asthma it means
that your airways are sensitive to certain trigger factors. The most common substances to
cause attacks or at least asthma type symptoms are pollen, grass, dust mites, animal fur,
certain foods and food additives, mould, cigarette smoke and animal dander.
When inhaled, these
substances can trigger the release of histamine and other body chemicals, causing an
allergic reaction and asthma episodes. An allergic reaction is an over reaction to
something by the bodys natural defence system.
Other changes in environment
can bring on an attack and these are also known as trigger factors - exercise, changes in
air temperature, coughing, laughing, breathing deeply, strong smells, and certain
Certain chemicals can trigger
asthma - perfumes, paint fumes, grain and flour dusts, sawdust from timber. The symptoms
may occur several hours after you were exposed to the chemical.
Other triggers are
medications such as aspirin and anti-inflammatory drugs, beta-blockers.
Viral respiratory infections
are common triggers. Therefore try to avoid people with these infections.
To determine if you have
asthma, your doctor will probably administer a pulmonary function test, which measures the
strength of your exhalation. Certain medications may be prescribed for this condition.
If you have asthma, you
should see a doctor regularly
For severe episodes, conventional medical treatment is
always necessary. However, a number of alternative treatments can be helpful when used in
conjunction with conventional therapy.
Following a diagnosis of
asthma, your first step should be to work with your doctor to develop a treatment or
management plan. As part of this plan, the physician might ask you to keep a daily diary,
noting environmental and emotional factors that bring on asthma episodes. This not only
will help the doctor monitor the disease but will help you recognise and avoid your asthma
Many people have had success
with alternative asthma treatments, but even advocates recommend these methods only as
complements to conventional therapies. Remember: Once diagnosed, asthma should be
monitored by a doctor.
Clary Sage, Cypress, Frankincense,
These herbs are not to be inhaled, they can be used in a vapouriser or put in a carrier
oil and used for massaging purposes.
Chinese Herbs -
use expectorant and anti-asthmatic herbs that clear the body of retained fluid. Ephedra
(Ephedra sinica) is a potent bronchodilator. Only use this herb under the supervision of a
qualified Chinese medical practitioner as it can have serious side effects.
(Inula helenium), acts as a soothing expectorant, may help clear
the body of excess mucus.
- To help calm restlessness and anxiety, take Arsenicum album. For symptoms that worsen at
night or during cold weather, or that come on very suddenly, take Aconite. For symptoms exacerbated by dampness, take Natrum sulphuricum. For more remedies and
appropriate dosages, you will need professional help.
Yoga - Yoga
can help you learn to breathe deeply and to relax,
Soy milk as alternative to
Be able to identify your
Avoid foods and drinks that
contain artificial colourings, flavourings, and preservatives, dairy products (as they are
Gentle aerobic exercise can
help strengthen the heart and lung areas.
When to seek further
You or a person with you
suffers from any of the symptoms above for the first time or if they are suffering from a
particularly severe episode
the prescribed asthma
medicine does not work in the time it is supposed to
You need a new prescription
you or the person with
asthma feels as if they are suffocating, making it difficult to talk; Get immediate