Asthma is characterized by inflammation of the bronchial tubes with increased production of sticky secretions inside the tubes. People with asthma experience symptoms when airways tighten, infame, or fill with mucus. Common asthma symptoms include:
• Coughing, especially at night
• Shortness of breath
• Chest tightness, pain, or pressure
Still, not every person with asthma has the same symptoms in the same way. You may not have all of these symptoms, or you may have different symptoms at different times. Your asthma symptoms may also vary from one asthma attack to the next, being mild during one and more severe during another. Some people with asthma may go for extended amounts of time without having any symptoms but can be interrupted by periodic worsening of their symptoms. Others might have asthma symptoms every day. There are also some people may only have asthma during exercise, or asthma with viral infections like colds.
Mild asthma attacks are generally more common. Usually, the airways open within a few minutes to a few hours. Severe attacks are less common but last a lot longer and require immediate medical help. It’s important to recognize and treat even mild asthma symptoms to help you prevent more severe episodes and keeping your asthma under control.
Know the Early Symptoms of Asthma
Early warning signs are changes that happen just before or at the very beginning of an asthma attack. These signs may start before the well-known symptoms of asthma and are the earliest signs that your asthma is worsening. In general, these signs are not severe enough to stop you from going about your daily activities. By recognizing these signs, you can stop an asthma attack or prevent one from getting worse. Early warning signs of an asthma attack include:
• Frequent cough, especially at night
• Losing your breath easily or shortness of breath
• Feeling very tired or weak when exercising
• Wheezing or coughing after exercise
• Feeling tired, easily upset, grouchy, or moody
• Decreases or changes in lung function as measured on a peak flow meter
• Signs of cold or allergies (sneezing, runny nose, cough, nasal congestion, sore throat, and headache)
• Trouble sleeping
Know the Symptoms of an Asthma Attack
An asthma attack is the episode in which bands of muscle surrounding the airways are triggered to tighten. This tightening is called bronchospasm. During the attack, the lining of the airways becomes swollen or inflamed and the cells lining the airways produce more and thicker mucus than normal.
All of these factors – bronchospasm, inflammation, and mucus production – cause symptoms such as difficulty breathing, wheezing, coughing, shortness of breath, and difficulty performing normal daily activities. Other symptoms of an asthma attack include:
• Severe wheezing when breathing both in and out
• Coughing that won’t stop
• Very rapid breathing
• Chest pain or pressure
• Tightened neck and chest muscles, called retractions
• Difficulty talking
• Feelings of anxiety or panic
• Pale, sweaty face
• Blue lips or fingernails
The severity of an asthma attack can escalate rapidly, so its important to treat these asthma symptoms immediately once you recognize them.
Know the Asthma Symptoms in Children
Asthma affects as many as 10% to 12% of children in the United States and is the leading cause of chronic illness in children. For unknown reasons, the incidence of asthma in children is steadily increasing. While asthma symptoms can begin at any age, most children have their first asthma symptoms by age 5. Not all children with asthma wheeze. Chronic coughing with asthma may be the only obvious sign, and a child’s asthma may go unrecognized if the cough is attributed to recurrent bronchitis.
Possible signs and symptoms of asthma in children include:
• Frequent coughing spells, which may occur during play, at night, or while laughing or crying
• A chronic cough (which may be the only symptom)
• Less energy during play
• Rapid breathing (intermittently)
• Complaint of chest tightness of chest “hurting”
• Whistling sound when breathing in or out – called wheezing
• See-saw motions in the chest from labored breathing. These motions are called retractions
• Shortness of breath, loss of breath
• Tightened neck and chest muscles
• Feelings of weakness or tiredness
While these are some symptoms of asthma in children, your child’s doctor should evaluate any illness that complicates your child’s breathing. Many pediatricians use terms like “reactive airways disease” or bronchiolitis when describing episodes of wheezing with shortness of breath or cough in infants or toddlers. Tests to confirm asthma may not be accurate until after age 5.
Risk Factors of Developing Childhood Asthma
There are many risk factors in developing childhood asthma, such as:
• Nasal allergies (hay fever) or Eczema (allergic skin rash)
• A family history of asthma or allergies
• Frequent respiratory infections
• Low birth weight
• Exposure to tobacco smoke before or after birth
• Black or Puerto-Rican ethnicity
• Being raised in a low-income environment
Know About Unusual Asthma Symptoms
Not everyone with asthma has the usual symptoms of cough, wheezing, and shortness of breath. Sometimes individuals have unusual asthma symptoms that may not appear to be related to asthma. Some “unusual” asthma symptoms may include the following:
• Rapid breathing
• Inability to exercise properly (called exercise-induced asthma)
• Difficulty sleeping or nighttime asthma
• Chronic cough without wheezing
Also, asthma symptoms can be mimicked by other conditions such as bronchitis, vocal cord dysfunction, and even heart failure.
Know Why Infections Trigger Asthma Symptoms
Sometimes a virus or bacterial infection is an asthma trigger. For instance, you might have a cold virus that triggers your asthma symptoms, or your asthma can be triggered by a bacterial sinus infection. Sinusitis with asthma is common. When you have asthma, any upper respiratory infection – like a cold or the flu – can affect your lungs, causing inflammation and airway narrowing. It is important to take measures to stay healthy and be aware of any asthma symptoms, even mild, so that you avoid a more serious asthma attack.
Hemp Oil and Asthma
Hemp oil may not be the first treatment to come to mind when considering asthma, however given the medical benefits that cannabinoid has had in other areas, it is now being studied as a possible treatment for this condition. Asthma chronically inflames the lungs, and it is now known that cannabinoids found in hemp oil have anti-inflammatory effects. There have been various studies on the positive effects of hemp oil in asthma patients. Now many of the studies look at how the active ingredients of this plant can reduce inflammation of the airways in the lungs. The airways of asthmatic patients are often inflamed due to a prolonged immune response to a trigger that sends the body into a defensive state. One study completed at the University of South Carolina and published the Journal of Biological Chemistry discussed the ability of hemp oil to help suppress inflammation in the body. The study shows that hemp oil can target receptors in the body responsible for promoting this defensive state, thus slowing inflammation. Another study revealed that hemp oil is a bronchodilator, meaning that it can open up the bronchial tubes to allow for increased airflow to the lungs. The study also stated, “It is gratifying, therefore, that the drug has been shown to work well by simple tests od ventilator function when administered in the form of a metered dosage aerosol with which these patients are familiar, and in an amount which has no side effects.” These studies are clearly showing cannabinoids potential to treat asthma. With the ability to dilate bronchial tubes and combat inflammation, hemp oil may be a legitimate way in which to alleviate asthma symptoms.