Dr. Amy Beckman: Control asthma with proper treatment and maintenance

This article originally appeared online at GoErie.com on March 26, 2023.

Asthma is a common respiratory disease that becomes chronic for many people. It is nothing to be ashamed of having, and there are options available today to treat it.

Usually identified within the first six to 10 years of a person’s life, asthma can also be diagnosed in adults, though this is far less frequent.

Asthma causes muscle tightness and swelling of your airways, and extra mucus production. These cause the airways to narrow, which makes it more difficult to breathe.

Generally, the average person diagnosed with asthma is started on a rescue inhaler. This medication is fast acting and is used to relieve muscle tightness of your lungs and to open up your airways, which will help you breathe.

A rescue inhaler is meant to be used at the first sign of an asthma attack, when symptoms begin. People generally use it once or twice a week.

The most common symptoms to look for are coughing, chest tightness, shortness of breath or wheezing. You may also experience fatigue or tiredness.

If you or someone you know is experiencing these symptoms and you don’t have a rescue inhaler on hand, then go to the emergency room. Once there, you will be provided with fast-acting treatment.

If you are unsure why you’re experiencing asthma attacks, consider possible triggers. Triggers aren’t always the same for everyone, but environmental causes are the primary culprit.

These include exposure to cold temperatures, dust, pet dander or smoke. Exercising is another common trigger.

A rescue inhaler is meant to be used in a moment of need. If you’re in a position where you’re needing to be saved from shortness of breath multiple times in a day, it may be a sign your asthma isn’t well controlled.

You should discuss this with your physician because there are many possible causes, and other treatments are available to help you.

For example, you may need to make adjustments to limit your exposure to environmental triggers, such as changing the filtration in your house. If you smoke, you may need to stop.

If it isn’t an environmental problem, you may need to adjust your treatment and be started on something called a maintenance inhaler, which is used every day, in addition to your rescue inhaler.

You want to make sure your asthma is well managed because uncontrolled asthma can lead to permanent airway and lung damage.

Three things can help manage your asthma:

  • Avoid smoking. This includes vaping or any kind of inhalant. Smoking leads to lung damage. If you already have lungs that are susceptible to damage as with asthma, you’re only going to make that worse.
  • Be aware of your triggers. People with asthma respond to things in different ways. If you know the things that trigger your asthma, avoiding those things will lead to better control. If you know your asthma is triggered from the cold, make sure to use your rescue inhaler before stepping outside, or alternatively, keep your face covered in the winter weather. If you’re allergic to certain animals, avoid them.
  • Make sure you are using your inhalers correctly. Incorrect use may lead to taking in less medication, which can cause suboptimal treatment. Be sure to ask your pharmacist to demonstrate how to use your inhaler properly.

Dr. Amy Beckman is a family medicine physician with LECOM Health’s Plaza 18 Medical Center and Union City Rural Health Clinic.

Beckman, Amy, D.O.

Call (814) 456-1009 to schedule an appointment with Dr. Beckman at Plaza 18 Medical Center. For Union City Rural Health Clinic, call (814) 438-2088.