Ignoring symptoms and attacks or treating them improperly can lead to asthma complications ranging in severity from lifestyle disruption to an emergency room visit or even death. Luckily, proper preventative care can help you avert all of these asthma complications.
Some asthma patients experience asthma symptoms primarily during the nighttime, which can prevent them from getting enough sleep to function properly during the day.
Asthma may keep some people from participating in cardiovascular exercise or sports. A lack or reduction in physical activity can increase risk other health conditions and unintentional weight gain or obesity.
Severe asthma flare-ups can also result in absence from work or school. According to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA), asthma is the number one reason children take sick days from school.
For some people, asthma can cause an ongoing chronic inflammation of the airway which, if not properly treated, eventually leads to permanent structural changes in the airways. This is often referred to as "airway remodeling," a term that includes all the alterations in structural cells and tissues in an asthmatic (as opposed to normal) airway. Unfortunately, these changes can result in permanently reduced lung function and a chronic cough. Possible permanent changes in airway include:
- Airway wall thickening
- Increased mucous glands and mucus production
- Increased blood supply in the airways
The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA) states that one quarter of all U.S. emergency room (ER) visits each year are asthma-related. Luckily, almost everyone recovers from even the most severe allergy attacks after receiving emergency treatment. If you are having extreme difficulty breathing, severe chest pain, difficulty walking or talking or if your skin is turning blue, you should go to the emergency room immediately; these are all warning signs that your oxygen supply is severely limited.
At the hospital, you may be given oxygen through a face mask or nasal tube, beta-agonist medication via a nebulizer, or a dose of whatever steroid you are currently taking. Most likely, you'll be monitored for a few hours to ensure your full recovery. In severe cases, a breathing tube may be inserted into your airway to pump oxygen into your lungs until your asthma symptoms are under control.
A severe asthma attack constricts your airway, which, if not treated immediately, can lead to respiratory failure and death. The AAFA estimates that 11 Americans die from asthma every day. There are more than 4,000 asthma-related deaths a year in America. However, the AAFA indicates that many of these deaths are preventable if the proper steps are taken to get help and manage symptoms of an asthma attack.