Asthma

Symptoms

Cause

Effects on Body Systems

Treatment

Accommodations

Bibliography

Links

Symptoms

The symptoms of asthma are usually detected in childhood. In their children, parents should watch for:

  • coughing
  • unusual paleness or sweating
  • fast or irregular breathing
  • noisy or difficult breathing



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    Causes of the Condition

    The specific cause of asthma is yet unknown. Research concerning "candidate genes" is now being done, but the basic belief is that someone with a family history of asthma will have a greater predisposition towards the disease.(Bunch, Brian) Asthma is universal and can affect anyone, but there are also theories about whether environment, race, age, or gender effect a person's chances of developing asthma. Hispanic children, people who live in polluted areas, women, and people exposed to cockroaches are believed to be more likely to suffer from asthma, but these are only studies which haven't been proved yet.

    Asthma attacks are caused by various "triggers." These triggers can include:

  • allergens such as pollen or dust (called atopic or extrinsic asthma)
  • air pollutants
  • smoking
  • respiratory infections
  • infections
  • exertion
  • allergic reactions to medication
  • emotional stress

    Asthma is greatly on the rise. Some proposed causes of this increase are:

  • better diagnosis of the disease
  • increased exposure to irritants (partly due to more time spent in poorly ventilated homes and offices)
  • gaps in availability of health care (especially for poor children)
  • overuse of adrenaline-like substances called beta-agonists for the treatment of asthma instead of removing the source of the irritation. This allows the patient and physician to view the disease as intermittent instead of continuous.



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    Effects on Body Systems

    Asthma affects the respiratory system. Asthma causes a spasm and constriction of the bronchial passages and the swelling and the inflammation of their mucous lining. The body responds by activating defense cells from the immune system, which causes the airways to swell and the muscles surrounding the airways to contract. This cuts off the airflow. During an asthma attack, the asthmatic cannot breathe. This can sometimes lead to hospitalization and in extreme cases, death.(Gormon, Christine p.61-62)



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    Treatment

    No cure yet exists for asthma, but it can be managed through a combination of medication and management techniques.

    Medication

    There are two types of medication. They are preventative and rescue medicine. Preventative medicine consists of anti-inflammatory medications, which when taken daily, can help. There are two types of anti-inflammatory medicines: steroid and non-steroid inhalers. Current research indicates that steroid inhalers provide the best long-term benefits without serious side effects. Rescue medicine consists of bronchilators. Bronchilators are medications that are used during attacks. They open up the bronchial tubes when the asthmatic has difficulty breathing or shortness of breath.

    Management Techniques

    A great part of living a normal life with asthma is to be responsible for managing it. It is important for the asthmatic to learn the ways to avoid an attack. To manage their disease, the asthmatic should:

  • see their health care provider regularly
  • take preventive medicines exactly as prescribed
  • not use over-the-counter asthma medications
  • not smoke and avoid smokers
  • if obese, consult a physician, because obesity can complicate asthma
  • know their triggers
  • take their medications even when feeling well
  • avoid allergens, both in the home and outdoors



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    Accommodations

    In school, asthmatics should be and usually are excused from physical exertion that could lead to an attack or discomfort. Other than that though the asthmatic is mostly responsible for the management of their disease.



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    Bibliography

    1.Bunch, Brain. Diseases. Vol. 1. Danbury, CT:

      Scientific Publishing, Grolier Educational, 1997.

    2.Gormon, Christine. "Asthma: Deadly. . .But Treatable."

      Time 22 Jun. 1992: 61-62.

    3.Parker, Steve. The Human Body: The Lungs and

      Respiratory System. Austin: Raintree Steck-Vaughn, 1997.

    4.Parker, Steve. The Lungs and Breathing. New York:Franklin

      Watts, 1989.

    5.Persson, Carl G. A. "Centennial Notions of Asthma as

      an eosinophilic, desquanmatibe, exudative, and steroid
      sensitive disease." The Lancet 4 Oct. 1997: 4-7.

    6.Sebel, Dr. Peter, et al. The Human Body:Respiration, the

      Breath of Life. New York: Torstar Books Inc., 1985.

    7.Silverstein, Dr. Alvin, et al. The Respiratory System.

      New York: 21st Century Books, 1994.

    8.Tzimopoulos, Ceanne. Biological Science: A Molecular

      Approach. USA: BSCS, 1996.



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    Links

  • Frequently Asked Questions
  • The Asthma Center
  • Spring 1996 Highlighted Article
  • SHN Asthma Page
  • Asthma FAQ and Newsgroup

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