Types of Asthma
As the seasons change, we often find ourselves picking up cold and flu viruses and feeling under the weather. But if you find you have repeated episodes of wheezing, breathlessness, and chest tightness it is important to talk to your healthcare provider to determine if you have asthma or other lung diseases.
What is it?
Asthma is a condition that affects your lungs and causes breathing difficulties due to the narrowing and inflammation of the bronchial tubes (your airways). It doesn’t have a clear cause, but it may be due to environmental and genetic factors.
Acute asthma exacerbation, also known as an asthma attack, is a sudden condition that can occur at random. This can be due to cold or dry air in winter, or because you have a respiratory illness.
If your asthma doesn't go away and needs ongoing medical treatment, it is considered chronic asthma. It can be classified into different levels depending on the severity and frequency and can change from one level to another and require treatment adjustments.
- Intermittent asthma: you have asthma symptoms no more than twice a week, with possible nightly flare-ups no more than twice a month.
- Persistent asthma:
- Mild: you have symptoms more than twice a week, and you experience nightly flare-ups three to four times a month.
- Moderate: you experience symptoms daily, and nightly flare-ups occur at least once a week.
Severe: you experience symptoms almost constantly, throughout the day and night.
Subtypes of chronic or acute asthma
Aside from the chronic asthma classifications and acute asthma exacerbation, there are additional subtypes. By classifying your asthma, you can identify triggers and situations so your doctor can tailor your treatment to help manage and prevent attacks.
- Allergy-induced asthma: Triggered by allergens such as cigarette smoke, pollen, pet dander, mould, food, and dust mites. This is the most common form of asthma. You should try avoiding your triggers as much as possible to reduce asthma attacks.
- Non-allergic asthma: Not induced by an allergen and normally occurs later in life. It can be more severe as you can’t easily identify the triggers.
- Seasonal asthma: Asthma attacks that occur due to seasonal changes, such as when there is abundant pollen in spring or dust in winter. Or because of changing weather patterns, hot and cold air, wind, and rain.
- Exercise-induced asthma: If you experience chest tightness, breathlessness, and coughing during or after exercising you might have exercise-induced asthma, otherwise known as exercise-induced bronchoconstriction. This type of asthma is triggered by strenuous exercise.
- Nocturnal asthma: This is when your asthma symptoms occur at night and might be triggered by allergens in your bedroom, the cooling of your airway, lying in a reclining position, heartburn (GERD), and nightly hormone changes (decrease in epinephrine levels).
- Occupational asthma: Attacks occur because of exposure to substances at work such as chemical fumes, gases, dust or other substances on the job. It generally takes several years to develop.
- Difficult and severe asthma: Difficult asthma can be due to other health conditions or poor adherence to taking your prescribed medication. Asthma that worsens suddenly can be referred to as severe asthma and may mean that you need to see your healthcare provider to adjust your medication.
- Child and adult-onset asthma: Occurring in children who are born with asthma, or else when it develops before the age of five. It may improve or disappear completely as the child gets older. It is often triggered by an allergen and can return later in life. In contrast, adult-onset asthma or late-onset asthma can be caused by other lifestyle factors such as your occupation (maybe you work with common respiratory allergens), obesity, smoking, stressful life events or even female hormones.
- Eosinophilic asthma: A severe form of chronic asthma that starts in adulthood and is often not treated effectively by inhaled corticosteroids. Eosinophils are white blood cells that help you fight disease by causing swelling, but in a person with eosinophilic asthma the cells cause too much swelling and may damage lung tissues. It isn’t triggered by allergens.
Keep it in check
If your healthcare provider diagnoses you with asthma they might prescribe medication and develop an asthma action plan so that you know what steps you need to take if you experience a severe asthma attack.
One of the best ways of managing your asthma is through prevention. Using an air purifier with a HEPA (High-Efficiency Particulate Air) filter may help to relieve asthma and improve sleep. HEPA filters help to improve your indoor air quality by removing large particles like pollen, dust, smoke, pet dander, viruses and bacteria.
A humidifier or dehumidifier can keep your room at the ideal humidity level which will help to reduce asthma symptoms. Too much humidity can cause the presence of mould and dust mites to increase, and for the air to be heavy and harder to breathe. Conversely, too little humidity can cause your nose and throat to be dry. Worsening the symptoms of colds and flu and increasing your chances of an asthma attack. A humidity level of around 30-50% is ideal.
To further reduce allergens in your house you can restrict your pets to certain areas and dust frequently. You can also vacuum frequently but beware, some vacuums might fill your air with the very allergens you are trying to remove. Choose a vacuum that has a filter to keep those allergens contained or open your doors and windows when you vacuum to optimise the air flow in your house.