This glossary will tell you the meanings of the most common asthma words used by your doctor, nurse or health care team.
Asthma: pronounced “az-muh”, it is a disease of the lungs that causes the bronchial tubes to become inflamed and constricted, not allowing enough air into the lungs. Asthma is a hereditary condition that is treatable but not curable.
Constrict: to make tight or cramped. When bronchial tubes are constricted, very little air can pass through them.
Bronchial tubes: the airway tubes that lead down the throat and into the lungs. Air passes through these tubes and into the lungs so that oxygen can be passed to the rest of the body. During an asthma attack, these tubes become constricted and air cannot pass through them easily.
Trigger: to cause to happen, or something that causes a reaction, such as an asthma attack. For example, dust is a common trigger of asthma attacks because it often triggers them.
Dust mites: very tiny insects that are found in dust. They are so small they can be breathed right into your lungs, and they often cause asthma attacks. One way to get rid of them is to get rid of the dust they live in.
Stress: anything that causes strain and emotional upset, such as very tiring work or being unprepared for a meeting or deadline. Your body reacts to stress the same way it would react if you were being chased by a wild animal. Certain chemicals are released that speed up some of the body’s functions, like the heartbeat and blood pressure. Stress can bring on asthma attacks in some people.
Allergies: these are reactions that the body has to anything it may be sensitive to when it is exposed to it. Certain allergies, such as reactions to food or to pollen, can trigger asthma attacks. An allergen is the item that causes the allergy.
Peak flow meter: a device to measure how quickly air can be breathed out of the lungs. By using a peak flow meter daily, and recording the results, an asthma sufferer can predict and possibly prevent attacks.
Anti-inflammatories: drugs that reduce swelling or inflammation in the body. Cromolyn, theophylline, and steroids are types of anti-inflammatories used to prevent asthma.
Antihistamines: drugs that prevent the body from reacting to certain allergens or hay fever by blocking histamines, which are made by the body and cause our eyes to water and our noses to itch, burn, and sneeze repeatedly. Some antihistamines are helpful in preventing asthma attacks.
Antibiotics: drugs that destroy the growth of any microorganisms in the human body. Antibiotics are taken when an infection is present, to kill the germs that are causing the infection. Some antibiotics can help to prevent asthma attacks.
“Rescue medication”: drugs that work right away to stop an asthma attack once it has started. Most rescue medicines are inhaled, or breathed directly into the lungs and take only minutes to take effect.
Bronchodilators: medicine that comes in an inhaler and is breathed directly into the lungs to relieve an asthma attack. This is the most common type of rescue medication.
Inhaler: a small hand-held device that holds a canister of medication (bronchodilator) and allows the medication to be pumped out and breathed in by the asthma sufferer.
Puff: one “pump” of bronchodilator medication from an inhaler. Your child’s doctor will let you know how many “puffs” he should take for each dose.
Spacer: a device that attaches to an inhaler to make breathing in the medication easier for children.
Holding chamber: a device that attaches to an inhaler and holds any extra medicine until it can be breathed into the lungs.
Nebulizer: a machine that sprays a fine mist of medication into the lungs of an asthmatic. Liquid medicine is poured into the nebulizer, and over the course of ten or fifteen minutes, it is pumped out into the lungs.
I.V.: an abbreviation for intravenous, meaning “into the veins.” An I.V. is given when someone is dehydrated and cannot take liquids by mouth, or when medicine needs to be given but cannot be taken orally by the patient. I.V.’s are usually given by doctors or nurses at a hospital or emergency room.
Treatment plan: a plan designed by your child’s doctor that includes all medications and in what dosages your child should take, both for prevention and treatment of asthma attacks. Your child’s doctor will work closely with you on instructions and information about your child’s treatment.Tags: Inhaler, Asthma, Nebulizer, Bronchodilator, Dosage forms, Pulmonology, Respiratory therapy
There are a few medicines available that might keep your child from having asthma attacks. Because these medicines work by reducing the inflammation in her lungs, they are called anti-inflammatories. These type of medications must also be taken on a regular basis, not when your child is having an attack. During an actual asthma attack, these medicines will not work well because they take too long to take effect. Your child will need “rescue medicines” to treat attacks directly. The following medicines work to prevent attacks:
Doctors usually choose to prescribe cromolyn, or sometimes called cromolyn sodium, first as a preventive medication for children with asthma. Your child will need to take it twice or three times a day, and it comes available as a pill and in an inhaler for your child to breathe directly into her lungs. It takes a while, sometimes as long as six weeks, to really see results. But this medicine can prevent attacks, and helps many people to get through their days without one.
This drug is very much like cromolyn, only it cannot be inhaled, only taken in pill form. People with asthma who take theophylline have found they have fewer attacks during the night. However, some people have some bad side effects when they take this medicine. You will want to talk to your doctor about this medicine before it is prescribed for your child.
You may have heard the term “steroids” relating to drugs taken by athletes who want to build muscles or have better performance. These are different and do not build muscles, but reduce swelling in the lungs. Your child will probably be told by his doctor to take these steroids if cromolyn or theophylline are not effectively relieving his symptoms. Unlike cromolyn and theophylline, which have to be taken every day to prevent attacks, steroids are usually taken only every other day. Your child can take steroids in a tablet or liquid form, or they can be inhaled, like cromolyn. If your child is currently taking steroids, check with your doctor before stopping this medication.
Other medications are available that might help your child in preventing attacks. Antihistamines are sometimes helpful to children whose asthma attacks are brought on by allergies. Antibiotics can be used as well, since they can destroy infections in your child’s body. Your doctor will advise you on what he feels will best treat your child’s asthma. He will also let you know which medicines your child needs to avoid taking together. Some combinations of medicines can be harmful, and your doctor knows what drugs and in what amounts your child should take to keep attacks away.
Always remember to read labels on any over-the-counter medicine that you may want to give to your child. Some medications cannot be taken by persons with asthma, and the label will tell you whether or not that drug is safe. If you have any questions about the safety of an over-the-counter medication, do not give it to your child until you have talked with your doctor or pharmacist.Tags: Allergology, Dosage forms, Cromoglicic acid, allergy, Asthma, Respiratory therapy, Pulmonology
When your child has an asthma attack, it can be a very scary time. Some parents feel that they do not know enough about how to treat asthma or help their child during an attack. This page gives some very basic information about asthma, what it is, how it is treated, and how you, as the parent of an asthmatic child, can better deal with the attacks as they happen. This pages also includes a glossary of defined terms so that you and your child can understand the meanings of some of the words used to describe asthma.
By reading this booklet, you will learn how to prevent asthma attacks by using medications and a peak flow meter. You will be given a list of early warning signs, and how to stop an attack if your child is having one. This booklet also gives you information on recognizing a severe attack and how to single out the most common triggers of an asthma attack. You will even learn what information to give to your doctor so your doctor can best help your child.
At the end of this booklet, some support groups are listed that can help you even more with managing your child’s asthma. Your child may seem panicked during an asthma attack. More often than not, it is the parents who panic while the child is only struggling to keep breathing and might be a little embarrassed about all the attention. In the long run, your patience and ability to remain calm during your child’s attacks will help your child most of all.
What Is Asthma?
Asthma is a disease of the lungs. It is not something you can catch from someone, but it is a hereditary condition, meaning that it does pass down through families. Asthma is a treatable condition, but is not curable. Your child will have his asthma all of his life, and at times it may get better or worse, but if he does what is necessary to control it, he won’t be bothered by symptoms very often.
When someone has an asthma attack, you often see a red-faced, panting person looking as if she cannot catch her breath. What is happening inside her lungs is not letting her catch her breath. During an attack of asthma, the airways react to something they were exposed to and constrict, not letting enough air into the lungs.
An irritant (dust, pollen, something she is allergic to) caused the bronchial tubes, or breathing tubes that lead to the lungs, to become tight and they often become inflamed, or swollen. The breathing passage gets narrow, which does not allow much air into his lungs. At the same time, mucous starts to fill up the bronchial tubes. Breathing becomes difficult, and the person may wheeze or gasp to try to get enough air. Only after the asthma attack passes can the person breathe comfortably again.
Some common asthma attack symptoms are:
- Difficulty breathing ??? gasping for air, panting
- Wheezing ??? a high-pitched sound like letting the air out of a balloon
- Coughing ??? some mucus may be brought up during a coughing spell
Why Does an Asthma Attack Happen?
There are many things that cause, or trigger, an asthma attack. Here is a list of the most common triggers of asthma attacks. You might want to mark any triggers that are present in your home or that your child is exposed to often.
- dust mites
- pet hair
- cigarette/cigar smoke
- auto exhaust
- household sprays
- air pollution
- rapid temperature changes
- aspirin (in some children)
- vigorous exercise
- certain foods, such as eggs, chocolate, nuts, dairy products and seafood
- sinus drainage
- paint fumes
- other chemical fumes or smells
- Preventing an asthma attack
- What is a peak flow meter?
- Predicting an asthma attack
- Treating an asthma attack
- Getting the most out of your doctor appointment
- Glossary of terms