Asthma is incurable. Available treatments are aimed at management, reducing incidences and severity of occurrence, use of medications, and hospitalizations. That is why asthmatics should seek ways of living long, almost normal, healthy lives through exercise, holistic diet, and life style changes.
What is Asthma?
Asthma is a disease condition affecting the airways and lungs. It is an inflammation of the airways which carry oxygen to the lungs, making it too narrow for air to pass through.
People living with Asthma have very sensitive airways that are easily irritated by what is known as asthma triggers. These triggers are substances such as mold, dust, smoke, strong smells of chemicals, pollen, animal fur, alcohol, certain foods such as fish, shelled foods, and so on, (it varies from person to person) which when inhaled irritates the airways.
When an asthmatic is exposed to triggers, the airways get irritated, swollen and narrow. At this point the body also produces more mucous, which further makes the passage of oxygen and carbon dioxide difficult. The narrowing of the airways makes it difficult for oxygen to pass into the lungs as it should. The patient therefore has difficulty in breathing as the chest tightens. This further leads to reduced intake of oxygen which could cause fainting or worse still, death if not promptly attended to.
Asthma presents with symptoms such as:
- Tightening of the chest (airways) causing difficulty in breathing
- Breathing with wheezing sound
- Running nose
- Increased body temperature
- In extreme cases, fainting
Though an incurable health condition, one can lead a normal, healthy, and productive life with proper management and a healthy life style. Proper management of asthma reduces incidence of occurrence, cost of management, loss of time due to hospital stay, and increases overall productivity.
Certain lifestyle changes can aid proper asthma control and management. Lifestyles that trigger asthma could be replaced by healthier ones. These lifestyle changes are analyzed in this article.
1. Avoid Smoking
Smoking is dangerous to the health of people who have asthma. This is so because when tobacco enters the airways, it irritates it, causes swelling and causes the lungs to produce more mucus than necessary. This tightens the airways and causes an asthmatic attack. This is not limited to only direct smoking, second hand smoke may trigger asthma. Second hand smoking is inhaling cigarette smoke from someone else.
To avoid cigarette smoke, you have to stop smoking. If you are not a smoker, ensure you are not caught up in the same space with one. Look out for places with the no smoking sign if your state does not have a ban in place for smoking in public.
2. Use Clean Pillows.
Pillows are cloth bags stuffed with fiber, foam, soft feathers or pieces of clothes, used to support the head and neck during sleep or relaxation. This makes sleep more comfortable, relaxing and encourages ease of blood flow. Overtime, the stuffing gets dirty with dirt from pillow handling, hair cream, dust, spillage, sweat, breast milk (in cases of breast feeding mothers). When an asthmatic sleeps on such a pillow and inhales dust or fiber, it triggers asthma. Pillows therefore should not be used for too long; one to two years is an ideal lifespan of a pillow with intermittent washing every six months. You should wash the whole pillow, stuffing’s and all every six months. Pillow cases should be washed at least weekly and the pillow aired regularly, especially if the user uses strong, scented hair creams. Ensure the inner stuffing is well secured and not leaking to avoid direct inhaling of foam or fiber particles.
3. Avoid Hairy, Fluffy Toys and Rugs
Fluffy toys and rugs are a no-no for asthmatics. The fiber strands are so tiny they could easily be inhaled. These strands get stuck in the airways and obstruct its operations. It could get entangled and cause wheezing while breathing. Apart from strands of fiber stuffing being breathed in, such toys trap dust particles which when inhaled trigger asthmatic attacks. Smooth toys should replace fluffy and hairy ones. Where Rugs cannot be completely removed, go for smooth rugs which do not shed fiber. It should be vacuumed and air dried outside regularly to avoid accumulation of dust. Even when it is vacuumed regularly, avoid lying down on the rug without a sheet as much as you can.
4. Clean your Apartment Regularly to Remove Dust
A dusty environment will trigger asthmatic attacks; there are no two ways about that. Dust is a major trigger of asthmatic attacks and should be avoided at all cost. When dust enters the airways, it causes irritation and inflammation. Some people react immediately by continuous sneezing. This most times degenerates to asthmatic attacks. The home should be cleaned and dusted regularly with natural, odorless cleaning agents. Areas such as under furniture and room corners should be swept and kept neat. Remember also to mop with clean water and mildly scented natural floor cleaning agents. Avoid clutter that might harbor dust. Throw out unused items around the house, especially furniture and books. Wear face masks if you must clean or go into dusty places like the cellar or old, stuffy library.
5. Avoid Harsh Scents and Perfumes
Harsh scents and perfumes should be completely avoided as they irritate the linings of the airways. Strong smell of petrol (gas), cooking gas, hair creams, fried foods are all asthma triggers. These smells contaminate oxygen and make it more difficult to breathe in. Mild scents and perfumes should be applied. Water based body sprays and deodorants should replace the aerosol type. Holistic body care products should be considered over chemical products.
6. Avoid Exposure to Household Chemicals
Household chemicals such as insect repellents, house and furniture cleaners, and pest repellents with strong, choking smells should be avoided. Particles of these chemicals get stuck in the airways and accumulate overtime, bringing on full blown attacks. Replace strong smelling insecticides with odorless ones and where that is not obtainable, get someone else to apply the chemicals and stay out for some time until the smell clears off. Leave windows open after the use of household chemicals for proper ventilation. It is a better option to replace all chemical household cleaning agents with pure organic ones.
7. Eat Healthy
Food could worsen or improve asthmatic conditions. Over feeding, a condition whereby the stomach is too full of food, tight and hard to the touch causes uneasiness and shortage of breath. This is because the full stomach presses on the diaphragm making it difficult for it to rise and fall. Food therefore should be eaten in moderation especially foods which causes bloating such as beans, lentils, certain spices, etc In cases where the asthmatic is allergic to certain foods such as peanut, fish, etc, those foods should be completely removed from the menu. Find foods that are safe and healthy and eat those in moderation. Avoid eating late at night or shortly before bed time. Eat at least an hour and a half before going to bed at night.
If your asthma is not exercise induced, mild, regular exercises could be your ticket to a healthier life. Regular exercise opens up the airways, expands the lungs, balances the body’s metabolism and helps blood circulate faster. Introduce mild exercises to your daily routine. Use the stairs instead of the elevator. Cycle short distances instead of driving. Don’t wear yourself out during workouts. Stop and take regular breaks at intervals. Exercises that allow one take short breaks and control your tempo are better for asthmatics. Exercises such as swimming, cycling, jogging and the like are best for you.
9. Maintain a Healthy Body Weight
Your body weight says a lot about your general state of health. Excess cholesterol in the system is not good. Cut down on fatty foods and exercise regularly to maintain a healthy weight. Learn breathing techniques to help you breathe better from experts and yoga practitioners if you are overweight.
10. Inhale Fresh Air
Fresh air is of immense benefit to the lungs. It detoxifies the respiratory system. Sleep in naturally ventilated spaces, rather than air-conditioned rooms. Open the windows, especially early in the mornings when the air is still fresh and let it in. While driving, wind down the windshields rather than use air conditioners all the way.
With these lifestyle changes, you are bound to live healthier, reducing the occurrence of asthmatic attacks.