Asthma is a scary diagnosis. Especially for someone who doesn’t know much about it. But for us, who live with it for years, it’s everyday part of our life. All we can say is: Well, we can live with that. I’m not trying to underestimate the severity of this condition, I’m just trying to send a positive message to everyone who’s facing this condition for the first time. Especially if it is parents whose child has been recently diagnosed and have no previous experience with it at all.
What is asthma?
Asthma is a long-term condition affecting the airways of the lungs. It causes the inflammation of the airways, narrowing the airways – bronchospasm and it often requires daily intake of medicaments that prevent or reduce asthmatic attacks.
There are two types of asthma – allergic and nonallergic. Allergic is the one triggered by allergens like pollen, dust or anything else you’re allergic to. Nonallergic is caused by physical or psychological exertion, for example stress or excitement, exercise and very common are also asthmatic symptoms developed from common cold or flu. Most common symptoms include shortness of breath, wheezing in a chest and coughing. But more about how does asthma feel like later.
How is asthma diagnosed
There is no such thing as miraculous asthma test that can be performed at one GP visit, so that you can be sure immediately if you do or do not have asthma. As asthma is a long-term or chronic disease, symptoms often come and go. If they’re more severe, you’re likely to be treated in a hospital and if such episodes recur, you’ll be diagnosed faster than someone with mild symptoms. In other words, doctors need to take into account all your medical history. They will give you a checklist to fill out or ask questions about experiencing common symptoms of asthma. Blood test will also be performed, as your doctor will be looking for indications often connected with asthma as allergy or high level of eosinophils. It’s all like building a puzzle. You need to put the pieces together before you can be sure what’s on the picture.
One spirometry won’t diagnose an asthma
Spirometry is one of the basic tests you will undergo when your doctor will be trying to confirm the suspected asthma diagnosis. It’s a very simple test, where you need to breath in deeply and then breath out as fast and as strong as you can into a tube connected to your doctor’s computer or device called spirometer. It mainly makes sense to do this test when you’re not feeling well – when you’re experiencing asthma-like symptoms. After the test, your doctor might give you an inhaler (bronchodilator), that should open your airways and then perform the test again to check for the improvements. If the inhaler worked for you, it might be a clear sign that you have asthma. Although, final diagnosis will be made after taking into consideration all other pieces of puzzle too.
Asthma usually isn’t diagnosed before 5 years of age
I have been explained many times at my GPs or at the hospital, that asthma isn’t usually diagnosed before the age of 5. The main reason for this is that child’s lungs are developing and young children might often experience something called viral induced wheeze that sounds a lot like asthma and often needs to be treated in a hospital. It’s usually the body’s reaction to a virus of cold or flu and as the child gets older, his lungs get stronger therefore he might outgrow this recurring condition and be healthy. However there are many children, who are put on an asthma medication at early age (sometimes younger than 1yo), need to take them all the time until they’re 5 and beyond as they will be diagnosed with asthma at some stage and this condition will stay with them for years if not the entire life.
The time between experiencing the symptoms & getting the final diagnosis is the most difficult one
When your child is experiencing some health problems, for example often colds & flus that end up with severe viral induced wheeze, stay in the hospital, never ending rounds of antibiotics, it’s a very exhausting time for your entire family. Usually, once you receive the right diagnosis, you’re also given the right medications and everything calms down. If your child’s diagnosis is asthma, you will learn how to control it and most of the symptoms or asthmatic attacks will be preventable.
How to control asthma
Great thing about asthma is that you don’t even notice that you have it as long as you are on your asthma controlling medications. It takes a little bit of practice and caution but as soon as you get used to it, you will be able to live your full life without too many restrictions. The most important advice I can give you here is: choose the great doctor who will teach you how to cope with your condition. Especially first few years with your asthma, you will need a lot of support and right guidance from your doctor who will tell you everything you need to know, e.g. how to identify upcoming attack or what to do in an emergency.
I will tell you everything that I’ve learnt in the past (a little less than) 30 years of my life with asthma and how I control asthma of my daughter who is the healthiest member of our family 🙂 Bud remember, talk to your doctor before taking any actions. I’m not a medical professional.