If you have just been diagnosed with asthma you may be wondering what happens next, and how people who have been diagnosed with asthma manage to get on with activities such as exercise, going for brisk walks, enjoying the sharp chill of cold winter air or going on vacation to muggy, humid climates. However, the fact is that asthma is a condition, not a disability, and it is important to learn to deal with it, and cope in a positive way.
As far as coping strategies are concerned there are several different strategies available, and they can be used in different ways to tackle the asthma and help you to manage it without jeopardizing a normal, healthy life.
In this article we will discuss asthma in 5 stages and provide a strategy for each different stage. These stages can be said to be diagnosis, pre-attack, initial attack, attack and post attack.
Once you have been diagnosed as having asthma you will almost certainly be prescribed treatment. This is likely to be in the form of an inhaler, and these vary from turbohalers which require a forced deep breath in, to aerosol inhalers which work by pressing a button which causes a jet of spray to hit the back of your throat. There are also two types of inhaler, either preventative or reliever.
It will be very important to spend time learning about these, asking your doctor plenty of questions, trying them, and reassuring yourself that when you need to use them, you’ll be comfortable enough with them to use them effectively. This reassurance is a valuable method of helping reduce the tension and worry, and may actually reduce your frequency of use.
2. Pre Attack
You may have some idea of when you are more likely to experience shortage of breath already, such as during exercise, or in cold weather. It is always a good idea to keep a record of when you do experience a shortage of breath and the need to use an inhaler as this will help to create a pattern that will allow you to be even more prepared.
Being aware of situations that could possible cause problems will allow you to minimize panic and worry as this is only likely to exacerbate any asthmatic tendency. And if you choose to go into a situation that might cause problems, spend time relaxing your breathing, controlling it, sitting calmly for a while and stretching your lungs with several good strong deep breaths. Make sure you know where your inhalers are and go for it. Covering your mouth with a scarf when in cold air and breathing through your nose rather than your mouth are two other little strategies worth using.
3. Initial attack
Although you often hear the term asthma attack, it’s more of a gradual constriction of the bronchial passages. Very rarely do asthmatics find themselves happy one minute then gasping for air the next. It is crucial to be conscious of the first signs of breathing difficulty. As soon as that initial feeling occurs, stop and get your breathing under control. If you’re exercising, stop and try to sit down somewhere.
Don’t bend over as you will only squash your abdomen and lungs, limiting your breathing potential even more. Instead, sit up with a good straight back, and focus on your breathing. Breathe fairly deeply, slowly and with control, preferably in through the nose and out through the mouth. Relax your shoulders, dropping them completely as you exhale. In this way you may well find your breathing gets back under control without the need for an inhaler at all. Knowing how to cope in this stage can make a very positive difference.
Try to stay calm, as panic causes your heart to race and could lead to hyperventilation as a means to get more oxygen into your blood stream. Unfortunately, hyperventilating then makes your asthma worse, and the feeling of panic increases. Being aware of this vicious cycle is important, and being able to break it is a very positive strategy. Staying calm and in control means you can access your inhaler and operate it effectively and correctly.
5. Post Attack
After you have had an attack, make a note of it in a log book, along with what you were doing and where you were. There may be an obvious trigger such as going for a run, but there may be less obvious ones that may go unnoticed without a log, such as cleaning the kitchen floor. Cleaning a floor might seem like easy work, but it could be that the strong odor from the detergent is a trigger. Keeping a log helps you identify such patterns, and this in turn gives you ways of avoiding triggers that lead to an attack.
It’s important to know how to cope with asthma, and in particular, how to live with it. Developing strategies to cope will give you a greater sense of control, and allow you to live your life fully with less worry and fear.