That wheezing and coughing noise you hear is the more than 20 million people who the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology says suffer with some form of asthma. OK, that’s an unfair stereotype; however, two of the main symptoms of asthma are shortness of breath and trouble breathing.
Of course, asthma is not the only affliction that can bring about trouble breathing in a person. It can also be related to the onset of several other conditions, including anaphylaxis (a severe allergic reaction this is generalized in a specific area of the body and is considered life-threatening), many types of drug reactions, food allergies and reactions to an insect sting.
Breathing tests are crucial aids in the diagnosis of asthma. These tests are easy to perform and generally do not cause the person any pain. They are used to identify how well or poor the person is breathing and they test the efficiency of the person’s lungs. In measuring the amount of air a person is breathing out and its rate of expulsion in each breath, the doctor or test administrator is able to if the person has any narrowing of the respiratory passages.
The two breathing tests that are used the most often to diagnose asthma are spirometry and peak expiratory flow. Spirometry is a machine that measures a person’s lung capacity. The person takes in a deep breath and then blows it out as fast as he or she can. It’s crucial that the lungs be as close to empty as possible after blowing out the air because this will provide the most accurate data. If this first test indicates abnormal breathing, the person will be given medicine to attempt to open the airways. The test is then repeated and if the person’s breathing gets better, it is a solid indication that he or she has asthma. However, if a person’s breathing does not improve after consuming the medicine, it does not mean he or she doesn’t have asthma. Mild asthma may produce normal spirometry readings and severe asthma may require weeks of medicinal treatment to open the airways.
The peak expiratory flow test is a simple test to measure a person’s expiratory air flow. It is less sophisticated than the spirometry, but it is less expensive and easy to facilitate because the machine used is portable. The person being tested sucks in a lungful of air and then blows very hard into the peak flow meter’s mouthpiece. As air from the person’s lungs enters the meter it causes a piston attached to a spring to push upward on a dial. It is this dial that will give the doctor or test administrator your peak flow. Peak flow measurements are what the person’s personal physician will use in order to determine the severity of his or her asthma.
Asthma attacks can be so severe that the person suffering one might require professional treatment. In fact, asthma attacks, or episodes, are responsible for approximately 500,000 trips to the hospital every year. The disease does not discriminate. It can afflict people from all age groups, any sex and any race.
Living with asthma can be a painful and crippling life, but it doesn’t have to be. The resources are almost endless, especially on the Internet, where people afflicted with asthma can go to learn home remedies, preventive measures, tips and remedies to aid in sleep.