Understanding Asthma

In last month’s article, I began a discussion about the allergic triad, starting with eczema. As you may re-call, eczema is a dry, itchy rash that is triggered by an allergen. This month we continue the discussion with a focus on asthma. Asthma can definitely be the scariest disease out of the three, but most people don’t realize that the severity of asthma can vary, or that asthma can change over a person’s lifetime.

Asthma can be classified as exercise-induced bronchospasm, mild intermittent asthma, or persistent asthma – mild, moderate, or severe. For any of type of asthma, it’s important to have a ”rescue inhaler,” which is usually Albuterol given via a MDI (Metered Dose Inhaler) or nebulizer machine. These treat-ments are designed to relax the airways when they start to close up. Sometimes only one use is needed to relieve the symptoms of asthma, but severe asthma attacks may require more breathing treatments every few hours for several days.

Exercise-induced bronchospasm can be the most difficult type of asthma to diagnose. However, it is also the easiest type of asthma to treat, only requiring Albuterol use about 30 minutes before exercising.

Intermittent asthma is usually triggered by colds, viruses, allergies, or exposure to smoke. This type of asthma doesn’t exhibit daily, or even weekly, symptoms, as patients may have only 3 or 4 asthma attacks a year. Some who suffer from intermittent asthma can go years with no symptoms.

Persistent asthma requires a daily inhaled steroid for treatment. The strength of the inhaled steroid, and the number of additional medica-tions required to control the condition, depends on the severity, and whether the condition has improved or worsened over the past 3 months. This is usually determined by your child’s pediatrician or pulmonologist.

It is important to understand that asthma should not limit a child’s activity, sports involvement, or ability to play. There are many professional athletes who suffer from asthma and continue to compete, just like their teammates. The key is proper diagnosis, and close management of treatment by a physician.

One of the most difficult challenges is the identification of asthma, especially if it is mild or on-ly triggered by exercise. If you see signs like tiring easily while playing with friends, losing breath while run-ning, an unusually bad cough– or wheezing– with a cold, or even throat clearing throughout the day, call your doctor to discuss the possibility of asthma.

Check back next month as I finish the discussion of the allergic triad by covering allergies.

Jennifer Adair M.D.

Jennifer Adair, M.D., was born and raised in Mobile. She graduated from Davidson High School in 2002 and received her Bachelor of Science in Chemistry at The University of Alabama in 2006. She completed her medical training at the University of South Alabama College of Medicine, and pediatric residency at the University of Nevada College of Medicine – Las Vegas and the University of South Alabama. She joined Children’s Medical Group in July 2013 and currently practices at their Airport office. Jennifer and her husband, Cory, reside in Mobile with their dogs, Fitz and Barkley.