06 Oct Asthma Attacks Can Get Worse Over Time
Allergic asthma is a chronic condition caused by inhaling allergens. Allergens are compounds in the environment that trigger an inflammatory reaction. In some people, the immune system mistakes them for an outside invader, and attacks. The air pathways swell and become narrow. While there is no cure, there are many ways to manage symptoms.
Many people think asthma is ‘under control’ as long as their rescue inhaler provides relief. Unfortunately, asthma can be a progressive disease. This means that symptoms get worse over time if inflammation builds. When attacks are frequent, symptoms become harder to control with medication. Eventually, rescue inhalers will stop working
Many people think that if they rescue inhaler relieves the symptoms, their asthma is under control. In fact, this is only a Band-Aid. The rescue inhaler does not address the underlying inflammation. With each attack, your lungs are more inflamed and more easily triggered.
The key is to prevent attacks before they happen. Doctors decide what medication to prescribe using a Step Guide. (insert link to blog post on Asthma steps). Each step adds another medication or changes the dosage. This reduces side effects while managing attacks. If you are using the rescue inhaler more than twice per week, it’s time to put it down, pick up the phone, and schedule a doctor’s appointment.
A symptom self-assessment
How controlled is your asthma? The following are signs that it is time to get re-evaluated:
- Group 1: Well controlled – No interference with normal activity. Fewer than 2 rescue inhales per week.
- Group 2: Not-Well Controlled – Some limitation of normal activity. More than 2 rescue inhales per week.
- Group 3: Very poorly controlled – Extremely limited activity. Rescue inhaler used several times per day.
If you fall into the first category, then you are doing great! Keep up your medications and schedule a check-up every six months. If you are in the second group, you should see your doctor determine if you need an oral or inhaled steroid. They may change a medication or raise your dose. Visit your doctor every six weeks until you asthma symptoms fall back into the ‘well-controlled’ group.
If you are in the last group, you should consider a short-course treatment with an oral corticosteroid. This will control the attacks for a short time, so you can work on a new treatment regimen. You likely need significant changes to your medications.
Some other signs that your asthma is not well controlled:
- Difficulty breathing with normal activities like going up stairs or carrying groceries.
- Decreased stamina and fatigue while exercising
- Drop in peak flow meter: this is a meter provided by your doctor. As your lungs become inflamed, your peak flow will drop.
- Waking up a night due to coughing or wheezing
Remember prevention, not rescue treatments! To stop asthma symptoms from becoming worse, it is important to make sure you are taking the right medications.