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Asthma in the Elderly

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Asthma is an incurable common disease that occurs in the airway of the lungs. However, having asthma does not necessarily mean one cannot live a good and active life. However, just ignoring an asthma condition can lead to a severe impact on someone’s life, and sometimes cause permanent damage. Although it’s not contagious, if your family has a history of asthma, you are more likely to contract it in the future. In fact, asthma is the most common chronic childhood disease.

Asthma in the Elderly

Asthma in the Elderly

Symptoms

Some symptoms of an individual inflicted with asthma include:

  • Tightness in chest
  • Coughing (commonly in early morning or evening)
  • Wheezing
  • Shortness of breath

However, just because someone has these symptoms does not mean they definitely have asthma. When the doctor diagnoses an individual for asthma, they will generally not focus on these symptoms, but rather by using a long term test, medical history, allergy test, and an actual physical exam.

Treatment

How is asthma treated? This is done by using two different kinds of medicines, one for short term relief, and the other for long term control. The best way to manage asthma in the long term is to try to lessen the need for quick reliefs by avoiding potential ‘triggers’, things that can cause shortness of breath or other symptoms. Although physical activity is a trigger, do not avoid it because it is important to maintain a healthy and active lifestyle. Some examples of triggers to avoid are some pollens or air pollution, or various other allergens.

For Quick Relief:

  • Inhaled short-acting beta2-agonists
    Instantly relaxes muscles surrounding the airway, allowing air to flow through them

 

For Long Term Relief

  • Inhaled corticosteroids
    They provide long term care and relief for the swelling and inflammation in the airways that are responsible for causing sensitivity to various substances
  • Cromolyn
    Taken using a nebulizer which sends medicine in the form of a mist to prevent airway inflammation
  • Omalizumab
    Taken using a shot

Some of the long term relief medicines however have side effects, but most medical specialists agree that the benefits of these drugs in their asthma relief far outweigh their side effects. For instance, a common side effect is called thrush, a mouth infection which occurs when inhaler infection lands in the mouth or back of the throat.

Senior Asthma Care

For seniors with asthma, one must follow the “Rule of Twos”, which simply says that if an elderly individual with asthma experiences any of the following, a change in asthma medication is needed.

  • Needs a rescue medication like oral corticosteroids more than twice a year
  • Goes to ER (emergency room) for asthma more than twice a year
  • Needs asthma inhaler refills more than twice a year

The ones who care for seniors need to make sure to watch for these signs, and be sure to prompt their loved ones to change medication if they occur. As well, they must make sure to schedule regular doctor visits if the asthma treatment is not effectively combatting the symptoms.


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