Feelings of Anxiety or Panic
It should come as no shock that when you are unable to breathe or speak, you may become anxious. You may panic. In turn, this will heighten your asthma symptoms because you may begin to breathe even more rapidly, which can cause a panic attack.
But did you know that stress may trigger asthma? According to WebMD, stress is a common trigger. Stress likely won’t cause a new case of asthma, but for those who already have asthma, it may induce asthma attacks, so it is termed “stress-induced asthma attacks.”
Peter Gergen, MD, MPH, a senior medical officer at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, states, “During periods of stress and anxiety, asthma attacks occur more frequently, and asthma control is more difficult.”
According to WebMD, stress wreaks havoc on asthma because “stress and anxiety can cause physiological changes that may provoke an attack. These strong emotions trigger the release of chemicals, such as histamine and leukotrienes, which can trigger the narrowing of your airway.” Also, during stressful times, you may forget to take your medications.
Cyanosis, or a blue tinge to the skin, lips, and nailbeds, indicates that the body is not receiving enough oxygen. This is a symptom of asthma that is extremely uncontrolled, such as during an asthma attack. This symptom would not be present with mild or moderate asthma, except during an asthma attack.
If you note that you may be cyanotic, you should consult your physician or seek emergency medical assistance.
Other conditions may cause cyanosis:
- Heart disease
- Whooping cough
How to Treat Asthma Symptoms
Asthma can be treated daily to prevent symptoms from occurring. Typically, asthma is treated with inhalers, but occasionally oral medications are used as well.
Long-term medications prevent and control symptoms from occurring in the first place. These medications are taken daily. These medications may include:
- Inhaled corticosteroids, which reduce and prevent swelling of the airways. They also decrease mucus production in the lungs. Generally, these types of inhalers are the most effective type of inhalers.
- Inhaled long-acting beta-agonists, which work by relaxing the smooth muscles of the airways. These inhalers should be used in conjunction with inhaled corticosteroids.
- Combination inhaled medicines combined inhaled corticosteroids and inhaled long-acting beta-agonists. These are effective when you require both types of medications.
- Biologics are injections or infusions given every few weeks. They work by targeting cells or proteins in the body and prevent inflammation. Unfortunately, they are costly, so they are used when other therapies have failed.
- Leukotriene modifiers are oral medications that relax the smooth muscles of the lungs and reduce inflammation.
- Cromolyn sodium is an inhaler that does not contain steroids. It prevents swelling when you come into contact with asthma triggers.
- Theophylline is an oral medication that relaxes the smooth muscles.
- Oral corticosteroids are prescribed as a short-term therapy during exacerbations. It also may be prescribed as a long-term therapy when other treatments have failed. They have more side effects than other medications.
Quick-relief medications are used in conjunction with long-term medications and treat symptoms immediately when they occur. They work quickly by relaxing the muscles of the airways. These may include:
- Short-acting beta agonists relax the smooth muscles of the airways. They are the first choice to treat acute asthma symptoms.
- Anticholinergics work slower than short-acting beta agonists. They relax the smooth muscles of the airways and reduce mucus production.
- Combination quick-relief medications contain short-acting beta-agonists and anticholinergics. They may be nebulized or inhaled.
Asthma Action Plan
Everyone with asthma should have an asthma action plan. According to the American Lung Association, an asthma action plan is “a written, individualized worksheet that shows you the steps to take to keep your asthma from getting worse. It also provides guidance on when to call your healthcare provider or when to go to the emergency room.”
An asthma action plan should include the following information:
- Asthma triggers that are specific to you.
- A medication list that includes the specific medications and dosages of your inhalers.
- Your specific symptoms that indicate your asthma is worsening.
- What medications to use based on your symptoms.
- When to seek emergency medication attention, based on your symptoms.
- The following telephone numbers: emergency contact, healthcare provider, and emergency department.
The asthma action plan should be divided into the following zones:
- Green: this is where you want to be daily. There are no symptoms present, and long-term medications are used.