How to Manage Asthma Flare-up Symptoms?
Asthma is a very prevalent respiratory disease, affecting 235 million people worldwide, out of which 15-20 million people are from India. It's a chronic condition affecting children and adults. Asthma occurs when the air pathways in the lungs become narrow due to inflammation and the tightening of the muscles around the small airways.
This causes asthma symptoms like cough, wheeze, shortness of breath, and chest tightness. These symptoms occur irregularly and are often aggravated at night or during physical exercise.
What Are Asthma Triggers?
Asthma attacks happen when an asthmatic patient comes in contact with "asthma triggers". These triggers are anything that can aggravate asthma and cause attacks. They can also make asthma symptoms worse.
Asthma triggers vary from person to person. The common ones include dust, smoke, weather change, viral infections, animal fur, strong soaps, grass and tree pollen, and perfume. It's necessary to recognize your triggers and learn how to avoid them.
Keeping your asthma under control requires you to understand what action is needed when you have a flare-up of symptoms (sometimes this is called an exacerbation). Firstly, you have to identify the early signs that your asthma is getting worse. Secondly, you need to know how to treat your asthma when it gets worse. Early asthma treatment works the best and helps keep asthma under control quickly.
How to identify if your asthma flare-up is intense?
The best way to assess the severity of your asthma flare-up is by measuring your peak expiratory flow (also called "PEF") using a peak flow meter. It helps you monitor your lung function and informs you what is the maximum amount of air you can exhale. This measurement decreases when there is more inflammation in your airways, indicating that even if you don’t feel any different, you are more likely to have an asthma attack.
Follow these general guidelines to evaluate the gravity of your asthma flare up:
Mild Flare Ups
You might notice shortness of breath while exercising or doing any physical activity. However, when you sit still, you feel alright. You will likely still be able to speak in complete sentences without needing a breath.You may hear some wheezing, usually at the end of exhaling during mild flare ups. Your peak flow meter readings will be at 80 to 100 percent of your personal best.
Moderate Flare Ups
You may feel short of breath when talking or lying down during moderate flare ups. But when you sit quietly, you will feel better. You might use fewer words than finishing a whole sentence because of shortness of breath. Loud wheezing sounds will occur, especially when you breathe out. Your peak flow readings will show around 50 percent of your personal best.
Serious Flare Up
Breathing can become challenging and faster than usual during a serious flare-up. Even while sitting still, you will feel short of breath. You might only use a few words to talk at a time because you are out of breath. You will feel the intensity of the flare up consistently. Your peak flow readings will show less than 50 percent of your personal best.
When breathing becomes more and more challenging, you might be experiencing a life threatening situation. Serious flare ups mean you need to get treatment immediately, preferably in a hospital emergency room.
How to treat asthma flare-ups?
The best way to control your asthma symptoms from getting worse is by using your prescribed medication often with an inhaler. Discuss with your doctor if you don't know which medicine to use.
You should also be able to identify the seriousness of your flare up using a peak flow meter. With the device, check your peak flow twice after taking your medicine. If your peak flow shows to be very low, your flare up is serious.
Your doctor will also give you a written "Asthma Action Plan'' for treating mild, moderate, and severe flare ups. If you don't have an asthma plan, ask your doctor for written directions to treat your potential exacerbations. When the symptoms of a serious flare up or your peak flow is less than 50 percent of your personal best, contact your doctor right away or visit the nearest hospital emergency room.
Smart Peak Flow Meter - Monitoring Asthma Smartly and At Home
A smart peak flow meter is a portable, easy to use, digital self-monitoring device to track your asthma levels at home. The peak flow reading is recorded automatically on your phone, without the hassle of paperwork, or writing. The device size is small and handy compared to a typical peak flow meter. You can easily carry it anywhere and check your peak flow anytime.
The device also sends you reminders to take your readings routinely. You can share your complete peak flow charts with your doctor remotely whenever you need assistance.