What is Asthma?: An Overview
Asthma is a lung illness that causes the airways to narrow and swell, as well as create excess mucus. Among children, asthma is one of the most common long-term disorders. However, adults can also suffer from it too.
As a result, they are hypersensitive to items exposed to, in the environment on a daily basis, sometimes known as asthma triggers.
In normal breathing, muscles around the airways are relaxed, letting air move easily and quietly. During an asthma attack, three things happen:
The muscles around the airways tighten. that makes the airways narrow. Air cannot flow freely through narrowed airways.
Inflammation: The lining of the airways becomes swollen. Swollen airways don’t let as much air in or out of the lungs.
During an asthma attack, the body creates more mucus. This thick mucus clogs airways.
In childhood, asthma is more common in boys, with a male-to-female ratio of 2:1 until puberty, when the male-to-female ratio drops to 1:1. Females are more likely to develop asthma after puberty, and females account for the majority of adult-onset asthma cases diagnosed in people over the age of 40. In general 1 in 13 people have asthma.
Clinical Signs of Asthma
Following are the common symptoms of asthma:
Chest tightness or pain
Increase in sticky mucus secretion
Breathing through mouth
Coughing or difficulty while talking
Wheezing( whistling sound) while breathing out
Increased pulse and blood pressure
Sleep disturbances due to shortness of breath, coughing, or wheezing
Chest Retractions: it is a sign someone is working hard to breathe
Causes and Risk Factors of Asthma
1. Family history/genetics:
If you have a parent with asthma, you are three to six times more likely to develop asthma than someone who does not have a parent with asthma.
2. Viral respiratory infections
Respiratory problems during infancy and childhood can cause wheezing. Some children who experience viral respiratory infections go on to develop chronic asthma.
Having an allergic condition, such as atopic dermatitis (eczema), food allergies, allergic rhinitis (hay fever), allergic to pet dander( dried skin flakes) is a risk factor for developing asthma.
4. Occupational exposures
Exposures to certain elements in the workplace can cause asthma symptoms. And, for some people, exposure to certain dust (industrial or wood dust), chemical fumes and vapours, and moulds can cause asthma to develop for the very first time.
Cigarette smoke irritates the airways. Smokers have a high risk of asthma. Those whose mothers smoked during pregnancy or who were exposed to secondhand smoke are also more likely to have asthma.
5. Environmental factors
Exposure to pollution, sulphur dioxide, nitrogen oxide, ozone, cold temperatures, and high humidity. Those who grew up or live in urban areas have a higher risk for asthma.
Children and adults who are overweight or obese are at a greater risk of asthma. Although the reasons are unclear, some experts point to low-grade inflammation in the body that occurs with extra weight
7. Other factors:
Exercises, stress, laughter, and certain medicines( ibuprofen, aspirin) can trigger asthma
Diagnosis of Asthma
Asthma is identified and differentiated from other illnesses by the following steps before the treatment plan is decided.
1. Medical history
The doctor would ask questions about signs present, allergies, medicines, occupation, etc
2. Physical examination
The doctor will check the nose, throat, upper airways, skin, breathing, etc
3. Medical tests and investigations
Exhaled nitric oxide test
peak flow meter tests
additional tests like X-ray, CT scan, blood tests if required
Treatment for asthma
Asthma is not a curable disease but its symptoms can be managed effectively and thus people with asthma can lead normal lives. Asthma management is as follows depending on the severity and type.
Bronchodilators are quick-relief inhaler medicines that quickly open swollen airways that are limiting breathing.
Other groups of medicines used in long-term treatment are corticosteroids, Leukotriene modifiers, Theophylline.
2. Home remedies
There are several things that you can do on your own to maintain your health and reduce the chance of asthma attacks, even though many asthmatics rely on medications to manage and relieve symptoms. Here are a few lifestyle changes and home remedies a person with asthma can practice:
a) Steam and Topical Creams:
Warm air is calming to many asthmatics. A steam bath, whether in a sauna or in a shower, can help clear mucus that makes breathing difficult. One word of caution, heat can aggravate asthma in some people, so it's crucial to understand your unique triggers. Additionally applying some anti-inflammatory topical creams that have shown to be effective in the treatment of asthma.
b) Consume Hot Beverages:
If the symptoms are minor, you may benefit from a caffeinated beverage. Caffeine is a bronchodilator, which means it helps to open up your airways.
C) Aloe Vera for Asthma:
Aloe vera is known to possess many health benefits. It has been used for a long time by people suffering from asthma. Aloe vera can help a person get relief from symptoms of asthma.
The gel inside the leaves of the aloe vera plant is known to possess anti-inflammatory properties, which can help in asthma.
Aloe vera gel also has a soothing effect on the lungs and helps in clearing the airways. It not only reduces external skin inflammations and rashes rather it also works effectively in relieving internal inflammations.
There are many theories on how aloe vera can help asthma. Some believe that it has a chemical property that slows down inflammation in the lungs and airways, while others think that it’s due to the plant’s ability to reduce mucus in the respiratory tract.
A patient's immune response is adjusted by aloe vera gel, which coordinates biochemical reactions causing the immune system to overreact. In this way, the air passages become less inflammatory and breathing becomes more normal.
However, aloe vera cannot be the only reliable form of treatment that guarantees to be effective.
Physiotherapy treatments for asthma are used in addition to medicine and should never be used in place of it; nevertheless, they may help to minimize the dosage required. Asthma
Treatment goals of physiotherapy
Control the symptoms of asthma and prevent further aggravation
Remove excess sputum and maintain a normal breathing pattern
Prevent the occurrence of asthmatic attack
Keep lung function as normal as possible
1. Breathing techniques
When it comes to mild to moderate asthma, breathing strategies may be more beneficial. Breathing retraining aims to restore normal breathing patterns by lowering the respiratory rate and boosting expiratory outflow thus controlling breathlessness, anxiety, and hyperinflation (increased lung volume). Various breathing techniques are as follows:
Reducing respiratory rate by decreasing breaths taken (smaller breaths)
Using abdominal muscles and lower abdominal muscles to breathe deeply (Diaphragmatic breathing)
Movement of the chest in the thoracic region
Breathing through the nose (Nasal breathing)
Breathing in a relaxing, controlled manner (relaxation)
Reduced airflow through pursed lips (Reduces expiratory flow)
Buteyko Breathing Technique (retraining approach to reduce hyperinflation)
Incentive spirometer ( slow maximum breathing)
2. Chest physiotherapy
Gravity is used in this approach to aid in draining lung secretions. 12 distinct positions can be used, and the one chosen depends on the demands of the individual patient
The percussion instrument:
This technique is also known as chest clapping, and is used to help loosen secretions. To perform this technique a cupped hand is used to clap the chest firmly and rhythmically
Known as shaking, is used to release mucus and secretions in the airways. The secretions can either be coughed out or suctioned out once they have become loose.
Positive Expiratory Pressure (PEP):
This is an airway clearing procedure in which a mechanical device is put against the mouth to clear the airway. This technique aids in keeping the airways open.
3) Physical training
When asthma is appropriately managed, physical activity is recommended and should not be avoided.
Helps to enhance fitness and cardiorespiratory performance, as well as to lessen symptoms like breathlessness and strengthen the quality of life.
Activities like tennis, volleyball, badminton, weightlifting help improve the function of the lungs without overstraining them.
Light-to-moderate exercises like biking, walking, hiking, elliptical machines, stair climbing improve endurance levels and avoid overstraining the lungs.
When standing or sitting correctly, the chest can expand appropriately, enabling the lungs to function efficiently, thus reducing asthma attacks.
Here is the correct posture guide for asthma conditions:
Standing or sitting in a particular position.
Hold the stretch hold for 15 seconds as you stretch the shoulder and neck.
At least 5 times a day, repeat as often as possible.
Maintain a straight posture at all times.
Exercises like yoga, pilates, Gym ball exercises help improve posture by maintaining mobility of the joints and muscles
Although aloe vera seems to have beneficial effects on asthmatics and overall health in general, it also has few drawbacks and strictly needs to be used under proper caution and medical advice. Few concerns related to oral intake of aloe vera are:
Aloe vera extracts can have a powerful laxative effect, this may cause Diarrhoea, Abdominal cramps, loss of potassium(Potassium loss can lead to fatigue, muscle weakness, and irregular heartbeat)
People with the Liver disease, Kidney disease, Diabetes, Intestinal problems, Heart disease, Haemorrhoids, Electrolyte imbalances should consult their physician before consuming aloe vera.
Due to the lack of safety research, oral aloe should not be used in children, pregnant women, or nursing mothers.
Oral aloe vera may cause certain drug interactions. This means it may block the effects of drugs you already take. Or, it may make their effects more powerful which can lead to the worsening of the underlying health problem, therefore doctors' advice is highly recommended
And since studies do not suggest aloe vera as the only treatment method for asthma, early medical diagnosis and treatment will effectively help in managing the asthma symptoms. As discussed above physiotherapy plays a major role in improving and maintaining the quality of life in asthmatics. Therefore asthma or any other respiratory problems should have a holistic treatment approach and just the home remedies cannot be trusted.