Take a nice long, deep breath… Are you able to? Did you feel tightness in your chest, or have a sudden urge to cough? It is estimated that 25 million Americans—including 7 million children—have asthma. For those living with asthma, taking a deep breath can be tough.
Asthma is a chronic lung disease in which the lining of the airways are inflamed and swollen. “When triggered, the muscles of the airway can constrict, making breathing difficult,” explains Dr. Richard W. Felt, double-board certified pulmonologist at Bingham Memorial Hospital, now seeing patients in Idaho Falls, Blackfoot, and Pocatello.
What Causes Asthma?
“Although the exact cause of asthma is unknown, it tends to run in families and could be inherited,” says Dr. Felt. Aside from genetics, certain living conditions or exposure to irritants, allergies, and respiratory infections all play an important role in the development of asthma. “Common asthma episode triggers are: cold air, smoke, infections, stress, pets, exercise, pollen, and pollution,” adds Dr. Felt.
What are the Symptoms of Asthma?
- Chest Tightness: sensation of difficulty expanding chest and obtaining a deep breath.
- Frequent Cough: may or may not include mucus.
- Shortness of Breath: this is the feeling of not being able to get enough air into your lungs. It may occur regularly, or sporadically.
- Wheezing: a soft whistle with breathing, coming from the chest cavity. Sometimes this happens after exercise or when you have a cold.
Exercised-induced bronchoconstriction (EIB) is similar to asthma, having the similar symptoms, and is associated with sports that require short bursts of high energy. If participating in your favorite sport or recreational activity, like walking, hiking, or jogging, gives you asthmatic symptoms, schedule an appointment with Dr. Felt for expert help in diagnosing and treating your symptoms.
How is Asthma Treated?
“There is no cure for asthma, but symptoms and episodes can be controlled with medication and management,” says Dr. Felt. “Avoiding triggers and following your medication regimen will help offer stability and security.”
Living with Asthma
If you have asthma, you know it’s a chronic condition that requires ongoing management. Though it may feel like a difficult chore, successful asthma control can be achieved if you keep three things in mind: physician support, environmental awareness, and medication use.
Partner with your doctor: the most important step in your asthma plan is to work with your doctor. Your doctor can help you understand your asthma symptoms and develop an overall strategy that works for you. If you find it difficult to follow your doctor’s instructions or are reluctant to take a prescription medicine because of side effects, be sure to tell him or her.
To make the most of your time with your doctor during appointments, consider keeping a health diary or logbook and bringing it to your appointments. In it, record your symptoms, the medications you use, the amount of medication you use, your peak-flow readings and any changes in your condition.
Know your environment: some asthma attacks can be prevented by avoiding the environmental irritants that trigger your symptoms. Common causes include tobacco smoke, pollen, animal dander, and dust mites. Changes in weather, strong odors, and fumes can also aggravate your asthma, says Dr. Felt.
Determine which allergens or irritants set off your asthma and plan ways to avoid or anticipate them. For example, check the pollen count in your area. Avoid exercising in cold air.
Be med-wise: in addition to knowing and avoiding your triggers, work with your doctor to develop a strategy for taking long-term control as well as quick-relief medications. In general, many people with asthma use a combination of both.
Long-term control medications include inhaled corticosteroids, leukotriene blockers, long acting inhaled beta-agonists (LABAs) and methylxanthines. This type of therapy is taken every day and helps maintain control and manage airway inflammation in persistent asthma. Quick-relief therapy options include quick acting inhaled beta-agonists. These medications provide short-term relief for asthma attacks.
About Dr. Richard W. Felt
As a pulmonologist, Dr. Felt sees patients with respiratory disorders such as asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder (COPD), chronic bronchitis, emphysema, occupationally related breathing disorders, and inflammatory lung disease and pulmonary fibrosis. He also offers evaluations for unexplained shortness of breath and lung cancer.
If you have experienced the symptoms of asthma, or have questions about your current asthma treatments, schedule an appointment with Dr. Felt. Appointments can be scheduled in Idaho Falls, Blackfoot, or Pocatello by calling (208) 535-3636.