First, the bleak news: As it stands right now in today's world of science, asthma doesn't have a cure. But there are several steps you can take to minimize symptoms, or better, practically eliminate them. The first and most important step to take is to work with your physician or respiratory therapist to figure out a treatment plan. In some cases, you may have another condition that's exacerbating your asthma symptoms that needs to be treated first. Thankfully, though, not every remedy requires a prescription or a credit card swipe. You just need to be clued into which type of asthma you have to know which methods to utilize.
According to respiratory therapist Mike Matson, there are two types of asthma (intrinsic and extrinsic) and a subset of these types (chronic or acute). Intrinsic asthma is a type of asthma that's caused by factors other than allergies. It's triggered by things like bacteria or viruses, or even physical symptoms like stress, anxiety, or heavy crying.
The different forms of asthma that fall under the intrinsic umbrella include exercise-induced asthma, obese asthma, and occupational asthma (wherein substances found in the workplace cause the airways of the lungs to swell and narrow).
In contrast, extrinsic asthma is brought on by allergens like pollen and horse hair. Now that you know the different types and have perhaps scheduled a doctor's appointment, let's take a look at your treatment options below.
Use a bronchodilator
"A short-acting bronchodilator, like an inhaler, dilates the airways and allows the patient to breathe easier," Matson tells us. This is best used for those with intrinsic asthma and may be instructed by your physician to be used prior to working out or in response to a lung spasm brought on by anxiety, depending on your asthmatic trigger.
Try a Long-Term Control Medicine
Matson says that someone with chronic asthma will not benefit from a fast-acting bronchodilator because their symptoms are more frequent and severe, so they'll need a daily preventative medication like oral corticosteroids or a long-acting inhaler (an inhaler that works in the long-term to control symptoms and prevents triggers from turning into full-fledged asthma attacks).
Drink Plenty of Water
Just another reason to increase your H2O intake: Staying well hydrated helps reduce histamine levels (or irritants like allergens) in the lungs and also reduces mucus buildup in the bronchi, according to Matson. Drinking water also helps to lubricate the lung tissues to prevent them from drying out.
Obviously, if your asthma is brought on by certain factors like pollen, grass, and animal dander, you'll want to avoid these things. But there are also some not-so-obvious triggers, such as foods like dairy, nuts, and shellfish that could be the culprits. Working with a doctor or an allergist could clue you into which foods are bothering you.
Also, if stress and anxiety are the root causes of your asthma, Matson suggests taking part in relaxation techniques like yoga or meditation or working with a therapist to put action plans in place the next time a bout of anxiety hits.
Caffeine is similar to theophylline, a bronchodilator drug that is taken to open up the airways in the lungs of asthmatics. Matson suggests not going overkill on your cup intake but explains that one cup could help stave off symptoms of asthma for up to four hours.
Try a Breathing Exercise
The Buteyko Method is a breathing exercise that helps strengthen your lungs and improve your level of breathing. In one study, six months after learning the method, participants had better controlled breathing and less of a need for asthma medication. Take a look at the method below:
- Take a small silent breath in through your nose and allow a small silent breath out through your nose.
- Hold your nose with your fingers to prevent air from entering your lungs.
- Count the number of seconds until you feel the first definite desire to breathe.
- At the first definite desire to breathe in, you may also feel the first involuntary movements of your breathing muscles. Your stomach may jerk and the area around your neck may contract.
- Your inhalation at the end of the breath should be calm.
- Release your nose and breathe in through it.
The longer you're able to pause without the involuntary need to breathe, the stronger your lugs have become.
Do you have asthma? What have you find helps you? Please tell us in the comments!