Asthma is a common respiratory tract condition not only in children, but also among adults. It is the chronic inflammation of the respiratory tract that leads to an increase in mucus production, swelling of the mucus linings, and hyper-reactivity of the airways. Asthma requires immediate intervention.
The longer a person experiences difficulty in breathing, the more he will be anxious, making the situation worse for himself. Primary signs of asthma include coughing, wheezing (asthma breathing), chest tightness, and difficulty in breathing.
Generally, there are two types of asthma medications. These are the quick-relief and long-acting medications. Quick-relief medications are used for the abrupt treatment of asthma symptoms and exacerbations. On the other hand, long-acting medications are given to control the symptoms of persistent asthma.
Since the main cause of asthma is inflammation of the airways, regular use of anti-inflammatory drugs is needed. Metered-dose inhalers or asthma inhalers are commonly used. Corticosteroids are the most effective anti-inflammatory drug existing today. Corticosteroids efficiently alleviate the symptoms, and at the same time improve airway function.
This kind of medication suppresses the body’s ability to respond to an inflammation, thus reducing the swelling on the airways. Other anti-inflammatory agents that are more commonly administered to children are nedocromil and cromolyn sodium. These two drugs are also good prophylaxis treatment for exercise-induced asthma or exposure to known triggers that cannot be avoided. These are classified as mast cells stabilizers.
In addition to inhaled corticosteroids, theophylline and aminophylline are preferred for the relief of nocturnal asthma symptoms. These methyxanthines serve as bronchodilators and have minimal anti-inflammatory effects.
Another medication that can be an alternative for inhaled corticosteroid for mild persistent asthma is leukotriene modifiers or inhibitors. However, it can be used alongside corticosteroid treatment for the more severe type of asthma.
For acute exacerbations, short-acting beta2-adrenergic agonists are prescribed. Examples are albuterol, metaproterenol, and pirbuterol. This drug class has a rapid onset, thus providing immediate relief from symptoms. Ipratropium bromide and oxitropium bromide, both anti-cholinergic agents, may have added effects in acute exacerbation such as relief from bronchospasm and reduction of mucus production. However, these anti-cholinergic medications are more commonly given to patients who suffer from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
Aside from drug therapy, people whose asthma is triggered by allergies should consider allergy desensitization or allergy immunotherapy. Unfortunately, this kind of therapy is not recommended for those who have severe and uncontrolled asthma.
Asthma has no definite cure. However, following the right treatment can alleviate an asthmatic person’s condition. If asthma is left untreated, undesirable complications may arise. Some of these life-threatening complications are status asthmaticus, pneumonia, atelectasis (lung collapse), and respiratory failure.
Acute asthma episodes can possibly obstruct a person’s airway. This obstruction may often lead to hypoxemia or lack of oxygen in the blood circulation. Asthma can also lead to dehydration because of excessive sweating during an episode and insensible fluid losses through hyperventilation.
With proper medications, a person with asthma can live a normal life.