Those of us who don’t have asthma don’t always know much about the condition, other than it’s something that can make it hard to breathe. But residents of Northridge and elsewhere with asthma, including those receiving 24-hour care want people to know that there’s a lot more to this potentially life-threatening condition than many are aware of.
The staff at Accredited Home Care works with a variety of clients, and many of them are battling asthma and other respiratory challenges. So the staff has received a good deal of experience learning about what they’re going through and also learning ways to provide assistance if needed.
Sometimes this education can extend to making sure a client’s friends, family members or even caregivers are aware of the condition, including what could potentially trigger a dangerous attack and how to provide or find help if an emergency situation does occur.
People who already have asthma may be familiar with emergency protocols or general awareness of possible triggers, or at least a general sense of caution, especially if they’ve been dealing with it for years.
But in some cases, asthma also may be noticed or diagnosed later in life, so some of these behaviors and safety may still need to be learned.
Even more concerning, according to Healthline, is that not only that seniors can acquire asthma, but the effects of it on already potentially weaker health from poor nutrition or poorly-working organs can be more severe, including an increased chance of respiratory failure, lung damage, even death from stronger symptoms, especially when compared to younger people with the condition who may have more mild reactions.
It also may go into remission for years if diagnosed at a young age, but seniors may be trying to manage it on a daily basis. Or, if they’re also dealing with dementia or other health conditions, it may be difficult to determine asthma as a cause.
Asthma can sometimes be misdiagnosed in some seniors. They may have been told they have Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary or COPD or other respiratory diseases and be treated for them when they actually have asthma.
The most basic definition is asthma is easy to explain but the challenge is that it takes so many forms and can perform so differently in each individual.
Generally, asthma is a condition where the muscles of the airways become tighter which can cause inflammation, swelling, and increased mucus. All of these can lead to restricted airflow.
The causes vary: it could be certain air or food allergens or pollutants in the air, sensitivity to some irritants, a respiratory or sinus infection, or even a virus. Cigarette smoking can also be a factor.
During an asthmatic attack, people may not be able to perform daily functions because their breathing is limited and their lungs and other organs are working harder than usual. During times of poor outdoor air quality, such as during fire seasons or smoggy days, people with asthma are sometimes encouraged to stay indoors.
The inflammation in the airways may lead to decreased immunization in the rest of the body during the period of an outbreak.
Health care providers may suggest other methods, such as an inhaler which briefly strengthens airways with oral steroids, or different devices to expand the lungs and airways. Regular vaccinations, such as an annual flu shot, may also help resist some viruses.
Asthmaandallergies.org reports that more than 2 million American ages 65 and up have asthma, and the population group is the fastest growing segment. Some seniors may be diagnosed with late-term asthma, sometimes not until their 70s or 80s.
What to look for
One of the first things that medical professionals will share is that every individual’s level of asthma and their response to it and management of the condition can be a little difficult.
They may have checked off a few of the possible symptoms on a checklist designed for medical professionals. They may only have a few asthma symptoms, or they may have every single one on the list. Some may have symptoms only occasionally, while others must deal with them daily. But all the symptoms could qualify under the diagnostic heading of asthma.
Generally, the symptoms can include:
- Shortness of breath
- Sneezing that doesn’t stop
- Coughing that doesn’t stop
- Frequent wheezing
- Chest tightness
- Chest pain
If you are experiencing some of these symptoms, consider visiting your provider, rather than waiting to see if more appear. The sooner you are diagnosed, the sooner you can begin to manage your asthma. In some cases, a provider may try several different types of medication to find the one that works best for your type of asthma, your symptoms or lifestyle.
Because asthma is becoming more and more common, there are various tests that can be used to measure lung capacity and function, or anything that’s obstructing breathing.