Controlling asthma means enjoying life

What Is Asthma And Why Should You Take It  Seriously In Your Senior Loved One?

Pegasus senior care professionals in Highland Park and elsewhere understand asthma. They know what to do if an attack occurs. This article explains why they, and you, should take asthma seriously in your senior loved one.

Tubes called airways transport air in and out of the lungs. Asthma is a chronic inflammation of the airways. The inflammation leads to swelling which narrows the airways and makes them sensitive.

Inhaling certain substances causes the swelling to worsen. Excess mucus is often produced, narrowing the airways even further. Muscles tighten and compound the problem.

Air is unable to move freely through the airways, and individuals experience breathing difficulties. For some, asthma is a minor annoyance. For others, it can be life-threatening.  

Allergies Are One Cause Of Asthma Attacks

Just as the severity of asthma varies among individuals, the “triggers” also vary. Some are within a person’s control, such as smoking or being overweight. Others, such as the genetic heritage, are not within control.

Air pollution is a trigger for some individuals. That includes exhaust fumes and chemicals used in work environments. If your loved one has hay fever or other allergic reactions, they have an increased risk of developing asthma.

An allergic reaction can also trigger an asthma attack. Other triggers include:

  • Cold air
  • Colds or other respiratory infections
  • Dust and dust mites
  • Food preservatives such as sulfites
  • Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
  • Medications
  • Mold
  • Pet dander
  • Stress

Some of these may bother your senior at one time and not another time. Sometimes asthma results from a combination of triggers.

Asthma Can Be Controlled But Not Cured

Although the triggers are generally known, the actual cause of asthma remains unknown. Medical science has not yet discovered a cure. Individuals with asthma learn to control it.

Controlling asthma means discovering what the triggers are and avoiding them. That’s significantly easier said than done.

The job will be easier if your senior has had asthma for a long time. They will already know what their usual triggers are. You may only need to help them discover new ones, if any.

If your loved one has been recently diagnosed, you may be spending considerably more time finding triggers. Lots of detective work and record-keeping will be necessary.

The most common symptoms of asthma are:

  • Coughing, especially at night
  • Shortness of breath
  • Tightness in chest
  • Wheezing

If not treated, the symptoms can progress to:  

  • Confusion
  • Cramps
  • Diarrhea
  • Dizziness
  • Itchy face and eyes
  • Vomiting

Emergency medical treatment may be necessary as symptoms worsen.

Your senior loved one may have asthma without these symptoms. Nor does having these symptoms necessarily mean they have asthma. Their physician has a battery of tests that yield an accurate diagnosis if the problem is new.

Even mild cases of asthma usually need medical treatment. That might only require keeping an inhaler on hand. The goal is always to keep a minor problem from escalating into a full-blown asthma attack.

Early Treatment For Asthma Preserves Overall Health

Getting treatment early can help your senior avoid or postpone stronger medications. It also helps to keep their lungs healthier longer. Mature adults also experience more side effects from severe asthma medications.

Physicians often use these categories in choosing treatment:

  • Mild intermittent – the symptoms are mild and don’t occur more than two days a week and more than two nights a week
  • Mild persistent – the symptoms are mild and occur more than twice a week, but not more than once a day
  • Moderate persistent – the symptoms are worse and occur once a day and more than one night a week
  • Severe persistent – worsening symptoms occur throughout the day nearly every day and frequently at night

Some individuals fluctuate from one category to another. Seasonal allergies, physical activity, and overall health all affect the severity of asthma. Prescriptions are based on the categories, age, triggers, and what is the most effective.

Asthma medications fall into one of two groups: quick relief; and long-term control. Quick-relief remedies are usually dispensed via inhalers. They are meant to provide relief during an attack, usually by reducing swollen airways.

Long-term medications are usually taken daily. Most work to reduce or prevent the inflammation that leads to an asthma attack. Physicians have a variety of long-term remedies from which to choose what works best for your loved one.

Quick-relief and long-term medications are not interchangeable. Your senior can’t use more of a quick-relief remedy to avoid taking something long-term. Depending on the cognition of your loved one, you may need to closely monitor what they are taking.

Because there are so many variables, physicians often provide a written action plan. The plan describes the medications and when to take them. It also explains what to do if an attack occurs.

Pegasus is a licensed Home Care Organization and a Joint Commission Accredited Home Health Care organization. We provide reliable senior care in Highland Park and our other locations. Our services are customized to fit the level of care needed for your loved one regardless of their medical condition.