Glossary of Asthma Words

December 1, 2009 by  
Filed under Education

This glossary will tell you the meanings of the most common asthma words used by your doctor, nurse or health care team.

: 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: Bronchodilator, Nebulizer, Respiratory therapy, Pulmonology, Dosage forms, Asthma, Inhaler

Asthma Prevention Medicines

December 1, 2009 by  
Filed under Education

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: Dosage forms, Pulmonology, Respiratory therapy, Cromoglicic acid, Allergology, allergy, Asthma

What is peak flow meter?

December 1, 2009 by  
Filed under Education

ometimes your child may think she is doing well when an attack could be just around the corner. “Well, how can I know?” you ask yourself. There is now a device that allows you and your child to know how well he is breathing. A peak flow meter looks like an oversized inhaler, but your child breathes into it, not from it.

When your child blows hard into the meter as fast as she can, it measures how quickly she can breathe out. Your child should use the peakflow meter twice daily, once during the day and once at night. The highest score should be recorded daily on a chart that goes with the peakflow meter. Share this information with your child’s doctor and use it as a tool to prevent asthma attacks before they happen.

How To Use Your Peak Flow Meter:

  • Make sure your child is standing.
  • Make sure the arrow indicator is set to zero.
  • Have your child take a very deep breath, then, holding the meter tightly between his lips, have him blow out hard and fast.
  • Write down the number where the arrow indicator stopped.
  • Have your child blow into the meter two more times.
  • Record on your peak flow meter chart the highest number, which is your child’s “peak flow.”

The Peak Flow Meter Chart
The peak flow meter chart will help you prevent your child’s attacks and help you to find out what causes asthma attacks in your child. It is also a helpful summary of your child’s condition during your doctor’s visit.

To set up your chart, have your child use the peak flow meter twice a day for two weeks, and record the best score for each use. Take the highest score during the entire two weeks, and use this number to represent your child’s peak flow. It will be this number that you will compare all of his future scores to and be able to identify the zone your child is in each day.

Peak flow scores will fall into one of three zones: green (safe), yellow (warning) or red (danger).

Green Zone

    This zone represents 80% or more of your child’s best peak flow. If your child’s score falls into this zone, it usually means that her medication is working well. To find out what your child’s 80% score is, multiply the peak flow score by 0.8.

Yellow Zone

    This zone represents 50% to 80% of your child’s best peak flow. This is a warning zone, and if your child’s score falls into this zone, his asthma is not being controlled with the medication he is taking and he may need to take additional medications, or use a bronchodilator. Have your child use the peakflow meter again in 20 minutes, and if the score does not fall into the green zone, an asthma attack could happen soon. You may need to prepare to handle the attack as advised by your doctor, or even contact your doctor if it appears the attack may be severe. To find out what your child’s 50% score is, multiply the peak flow score by 0.5.

Red Zone

    This zone represents less than 50% of your child’s best peak flow. This zone means danger, and your child will probably have an asthma attack. Use the medicines your doctor prescribed to stop an attack, and if your child gets no relief, contact your doctor as soon as possible.
Tags: Respiratory therapy, Asthma, Medical equipment, Flow measurement, Measuring instruments, Peak flow meter

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