Asthma - Triggers, Symptoms, Types
Asthma is a disease affecting the lungs. It is mostly an allergic disease in which bronchospasm is seen which is reversible. So asthma is an allergic lung disease characterized by reversible airflow limitation. It is not aged specific disease but children are more prone to asthma. It is the most leading cause for childhood morbidly in terms of absence from school, recurrent emergency room visit, growth and development retardation etc.
Theoretically, Asthma can be divided in the following ways.
- Childhood Asthma
- Skin Asthma
- Cardiac Asthma
- Adult-Onset Asthma
- It can also be divided in terms of severity based on spirometry findings, mild, moderate and severe.
Common Symptoms Of Asthma
Though symptoms of asthma depend on above mentioned types, few common asthma symptoms are as follows
- A cough (mostly dry, irritating)
- Breathlessness or Dyspnea or Difficulty in Breathing
- Chest Tightness
- Chest pain
Asthma Symptoms According To Type Of Asthma
Childhood Asthma Symptoms
Honestly speaking, diagnosis of asthma in children is very important difficult because a child cannot perform spirometry and viral infections like bronchitis, Bronchiolitis is very common in children which mimic asthma. So detailed evaluation by a pediatrician about childhood asthma symptoms is necessary.
Common asthma symptoms in children are dry, irritating cough, wheezing especially at night and on playing physical games, nasal symptoms like sneezing, nasal blockage, runny nose (these symptoms because of associated allergic rhinitis). All these symptoms are more common during the night or playing in the garden (allergen exposure).
Skin Asthma Symptoms
In this variant of asthma, the patient usually gets rashes, Itching, swollen lips, eyelid edema along with Asthma symptoms (a cough, wheezing). It is mostly seen with adults having allergies with chemicals, detergents, soaps etc.
Cardiac Asthma Symptoms
It is seen mostly with elderly patients who have a history of heart diseases like myocardial ischemia, congestive heart failure, cardiomyopathy etc. A typical symptom of this type of asthma is chest tightness, wheezing, difficulty in taking breath especially in the early morning between 2-5 am. Along with Asthma symptoms, these patients also have high blood pressure, edema feet, palpitations, impending or doom etc.
Adult Onset Asthma Symptoms
Some adults start showing allergies after 20-25 years. They are not having any allergies in their childhood. Common symptoms for this variant are cough with or without expectoration, wheezing, breathlessness on exertion, chest tightness, sneezing, nasal blockage etc. This kind of asthma is often associated with stress, anxiety, and GERD (Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease).
So other associated symptoms are palpitations, sweating, nervousness, fearfulness, anxious behavior, GERD symptoms are like burning epigastric pain, nausea, belching, burping, vomiting, bloating etc.
Asthma Symptoms Based On Severity
Let’s first know about asthma severity of asthma based on spirometry. Spirometry gives values of lung functions. Amongst these values, FEV1 (Forced expiratory volume in a 1st second) is used to classify asthma. If FEV1 is between 60-80 % of predicted it is considered as mild asthma. If the value is between the 40-60%, it is classified as moderate asthma and if FEV1 is less than 40%, it is severe asthma.
Since lung functions are not much deteriorated, patients with mild asthma will have a dry cough, wheezing at night, sneezing etc. They don’t show breathlessness because lung functions are good.
Symptoms Of Moderate Asthma
Along with a cough and wheezing, these patients show chest tightness and breathlessness on exertion (climbing stairs, playing sports, running).
Symptoms Of Severe Asthma
These patients will have a cough with expectoration, audible wheezing, breathlessness on rest or with minimal exertion (even few steps), bluish discoloration of lips, fingers, ear lobules (due to cyanosis) etc.
A person can develop an allergy to anything. But common allergens cause asthma triggers are pollens, animal danders, dust, mites, chemicals, fumes, smoke, food items etc.
Foods that Trigger Asthma Symptoms
Certain food items are known to cause asthma symptoms along with diarrhea and abdominal pain. Eggs, cows milk, soy protein, rice, peanut, tree nuts, wheat, fish, shrimps, and other shellfish are common food triggers.
Food preservatives can also trigger asthma. Sulfite additives, such as sodium bisulfite, potassium bisulfite, sodium metabisulfite, potassium metabisulfite, and sodium sulfite, are commonly used in food processing or preparation and may trigger asthma in those people who are allergic.
Some people show Airway hyperactivity with exercise. They show wheezing, coughing, chest tightness only during exercise like running.
Smoking is also a very important trigger. Adults develop asthma 5-7 years after started smoking.
Recurrent Respiratory Tract Infections
- Both upper and lower respiratory tract infections when recurrent can trigger asthma.
- Stress and Anxiety
- GERD (Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease)
Extremely cold air during winters, a sudden change in temperature, humidity can also trigger asthma symptoms.
Many irritants, including tobacco smoke, smoke from wood-burning appliances or fireplaces, strong odors from perfumes, cleaning agents, etc., are all irritants that can trigger asthma. In addition, air pollution, occupational dust, or vapors can trigger an attack.