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Asthma

Treat asthma symptoms with effective inhaler medication

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Dr Hilary Jones discusses asthma and the treatments available at HealthExpress

Asthma is an extremely common condition that affects around 5.4 million people across the nation, but is completely manageable with the appropriate treatment. Inhalers are the most common type of medication and they come in the form of preventers and relievers. Preventers are often used on a daily basis whilst relievers offer assistance for when you're caught short.

In some mild cases, you may not need treatment although it is advised to always carry an inhaler around with you in case of emergencies. However, treating asthma can be the difference between subduing an attack or not. Many people with mild asthmatic symptoms also find using before exercise, at the start of the day and whenever they're caught short stops breathlessness and gives them peace of mind.

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Available treatments

Ventolin  Allen & Hanburys
  • Available in two forms – Evohaler (100mcg) or Accuhaler (200mcg)
  • Uses active ingredient microfine salbutamol
  • No doctor appointment required
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What is asthma?

Asthma is an extremely common health condition. It affects approximately 5.4 million people here in the UK, 50% of which are children. A long-term – otherwise known as chronic - respiratory disease that tends to develop during childhood, symptoms can ease over time, however they will never completely disappear.

If you have asthma, you will find that certain triggers leave you wheezing, breathless and tired. These triggers can vary massively from person to person. Your airways - the bronchioles - are very sensitive, and can become inflamed through various causes including exercise, dust, any allergies or even the quality of air and surrounding pollution all depending on the individual in question. You may also form a build-up of mucus, making it even harder to breath the oxygen in, and the carbon dioxide out.

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As you can imagine, an immune reaction can severely constrict and reduce airflow, making it a serious condition if not managed properly.

Luckily, there are treatments easily available regardless of whether the condition is exercise-induced, provoked by allergies or smoke related. Therefore, if you suffer from any of these forms of asthma, it can be effectively managed and improved over time.

According to NHS figures, asthma affects 1 in 12 adults and 1 in 11 children.

Dr Hilary Jones
HealthExpress Medical Advisor


What is COPD?

COPD, medically known as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, is similar to asthma in the sense that it is a condition that affects the lungs. The term used for diseases including chronic bronchitis, emphysema and chronic obstructive airways and it can be prevented with the same treatments as asthma including inhalers, medicines and lifestyle changes. Typical symptoms include breathlessness, a persistent cough, frequent chest infections and phlegm, all of which can be confused with asthma however the symptoms are often more severe.[1]

What are the main causes of asthma?

Despite how common asthma is, not much is known about how the condition develops. Some research has shown that you can be born with a predisposition, making it highly likely that you will develop asthma at some point. There has also been a link to the condition being hereditary, although it is more likely that additional lifestyle and birthing factors have contributed instead. Possible causes of asthma include:



  • asthma_causes-1 Bronchitis
  • asthma_causes-2 Smoking during pregnancy
  • asthma_causes-3 Premature births
  • asthma_causes-4 Allergic reactions
  • asthma_causes-5 Environmental pollutants
  • asthma_causes-6 Hereditary factors

If you think you have asthma, then you can visit your doctor's surgery, or complete our simple and free online consultation to determine what treatment you may need if you have already been diagnosed. At the doctors, your GP will be able to carry out a number of simple tests to determine whether you A) have asthma and B) what possible treatment and prevention you need. The tests can include spirometry, a peak expiratory flow rate test and an airway responsiveness test. All tests are aimed at determining how well your lungs are functioning.[2]

What are the various asthma triggers?

There are a number of triggers dependent on the individual, however the outcome seldom differs with the vast majority of sufferers all experiencing shortness of breath.

Your condition could be caused by one or a number of these triggers. Keeping a mental or physical note of these will help you manage any distorting symptoms, however most find any extremely adaptable. A number of symptoms if not prevented include; breathlessness, wheezing and coughing:


A good indicator of which triggers affect you the most is your peak flow that can be measured during rest points in comparison to when you feel breathless. A peak flow monitor is simply a tube with figures listed vertically. A sharp exhale into the tube moves the pin, allowing you to check how your lungs are doing. The level you should be at varies depending on age, gender, height and what specific triggers you have. Many asthmatics keep a peak flow diary or 'asthma plan' to keep on top of their progress.

Symptoms of asthma

Asthma symptoms tend to be very similar from person-to-person, even if your triggers are different. In terms of lifestyle choices, it makes sense to adjust to improve your overall level of health. For example, quitting smoking will benefit you in all aspects, not just if you are an asthmatic.

It can be particularly frustrating when exercising, especially if you enjoy it, or as yet another symptom of hay fever on top of the runny nose and watery eyes. With severe asthma symptoms, you may find it difficult climbing stairs, walking long distances or short bursts of running - if you're running late for the train for example. Asthma sufferers often experience all of these symptoms:

  • symptoms Breathlessness
  • symptoms Wheezing
  • symptoms Tightness in the chest
  • symptoms Coughing
  • symptoms Light-headedness

These symptoms can eventually progress into an asthma attack, therefore it is vital that your asthma symptoms are controlled using effective treatments or medicines to ensure that something like this can be avoided. You can find out more information on how to avoid an attack by looking at our 'What can you do if you have an asthma attack?' section below.

What is an asthma attack?

What is the difference between typical wheezing and an asthma attack? Other than your symptoms of asthma attack being far more severe, the smallest tubes connected to your lungs narrow and contract, limiting your oxygen levels even further. If you are having an attack, you will most likely have additional mucus also.

But how can you can you tell if you're on the verge on an attack? These are the five solid indicators:

  • If your symptoms are prolonged and getting worse
  • If you're having difficulty speaking, drinking and sleeping
  • If your breathing rate increases
  • If you can't breath in without maximum effort
  • If your reliever isn't helping in the slightest, especially after four hours

We have more details on dealing with an asthma attack just below.

How to manage asthma

As well as avoiding your particular trigger(s), the most effective way to treat asthma is through oral medications known as preventers and relievers, aka inhalers. There are other methods to relieve asthma symptoms (such as a cough) including keeping smoke-free, taking care of seasonal allergies and getting vaccinated for influenza and pneumonia. All of these alternate options can be seen in more detail in the section below.

Inhalers are an essential in the bag, purse or pocket of any asthmatic and have been proven in clinical studies to be the most effective method, especially at successfully preventing asthma attacks. Even if your symptoms are mild, getting treatment to avert a potentially more serious attack could be lifesaving. For example, fitness fanatics should always be carrying a suitable in-date reliever inhaler to the gym, and keeping a decent stash during cold season is advised.

If you require both preventers and relievers, certain medications can be taken separately (Qvar and Ventolin for example) and you can also get combined treatment, including Seretide. These are also available in various dosages dependant on the severity of your condition.

Benefits of treating asthma

  • Reduced asthmatic symptoms

    less prevalance of wheezing, coughing, breathlessness etc

  • Reduced reliance on relievers

    treating this condition can lessen the usage of a reliever inhaler in the long term

  • Increased control/management

    better lung function and normal activity levels can be achieved through effective management

  • Prevent asthma attacks

    this would reduce frequent emergency trips to the hospital

Further help for Asthma

Although asthma cannot be prevented, there are measures you can take to ensure that you manage your asthma more successfully. These measures involve attempting to avoid the triggers mentioned above and include the following:

  • Getting vaccinated for influenza and pneumonia
  • Using allergy-proof pillows and mattresses
  • Not allowing pets on furniture or in bedrooms
  • Keeping smoke free and avoiding areas where people smoke
  • Taking care of your seasonal allergies, e.g. hay fever
  • Using a peak flow meter to measure how fast you can blow air out
  • Keeping asthma medication readily available
  • Getting regular check-ups with your GP
  • Stay prepared and know the location of your nearest hospital, just in case

Following these helpful tips, along with using your medication (i.e. inhalers) will give you the best chance possible to successfully control and even improve your asthma in the long term, and to avoid any serious effects caused by this condition, such as the risk of asthma attacks.

What can you do if you have an asthma attack?

If you have asthma, chances are you're well aware of your triggers and an impending attack. Every asthma sufferer knows the importance of carrying all the medication they need just in case of emergencies to manage their asthma attack. Basically you've got it covered. But here are some additional steps to give you the best chance possible of avoiding an attack:

Asthma Most importantly, STAY CALM Continue using your reliever inhaler if the ambulance/further aid is more than 15 minutes away DON'T lie down - sit up Use your reliever inhaler (usually blue) frequently – once or twice a minute depending on the severity for a maximum of 10 puffs If your breathing hasn't improved, call for back up! Dial 999

What options we offer for asthma

At HealthExpress, we can help you successfully manage your asthma with a wide range of effective treatments, including oral medication and inhalers, as well as offering additional advice and support. These treatments ensure that you are able to control asthma symptoms, which can in severe cases, potentially lead to asthma attacks. Most commonly, asthma treatment will involve inhalers, which come in two groups, preventers or relievers. Preventers are recommended for daily use and aim to reduce airway sensitivity, swelling and mucous production in response to irritants. Relievers, such as Ventolin, relax and open airways during an attack. Sometimes a reliever as well as a preventer can be used during an attack to help deal with the obstruction as well as the inflammation. Both forms of treatment are available to buy at HealthExpress.

Our service is quick, confidential and tailored to your lifestyle, so you can receive your usual asthma treatment within just 24 hours of ordering. The process is simple; complete our no obligation consultation within minutes, which will be sent to our doctors. Once your consultation has been approved, the prescription is sent directly to our UK based pharmacy where your treatment will be prepared ready for free next day delivery, or same day delivery from London postcodes.

Sources

Dr Hilary Jones, HealthExpress Medical Advisor

What are the available asthma treatments?

Most commonly asthma treatment will involve inhalers, which come in two groups, preventers or relievers. Preventers are recommended for daily use and aim to reduce airway sensitivity, swelling and mucous production in response to irritants. Relievers, such as Ventolin, relax and open airways during an attack. Sometimes a reliever as well as a preventer can be used during an attack to help deal with the obstruction as well as the inflammation. Both forms of treatment are available to buy at HealthExpress.

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