Reactive Airway Disease/Asthma—You might be sleeping, jogging, even reading this book when you suddenly start wheezing and coughing. You struggle to breathe, your chest tightens, and anxiety floods your body. You’re experiencing an asthma attack.
During an asthma attack, IgE antibodies activate histamine and other chemicals, which trigger the bronchioles (bronchial tubes) to become inflamed and flooded with mucus. The bronchial lining’s smooth muscles contract, narrowing the bronchial passages and obstructing the airways.
Symptoms can range from minor difficulties in breathing to severe wheezing and coughing accompanied by mucus excretion.
More than 15 million Americans have asthma, a 33% increase from 1990 and 66% increase from 1980.22 In 1997, more than 5,400 people died from severe asthma attacks,” more than double the asthma death rate in 1980.24 Occupational asthma, which develops in adults due to sub-stances they are exposed to at work, accounts for 15.4% of all cases of asthma in United States.” Five million children under the age of 18 suffer from asthma,” making it the leading cause of hospitalization and school absenteeism for children.” Asthma is more prevalent among African-American children than in other groups (26%), and is more likely to culminate in death.” Asthma takes a high toll on health-care finances as well, with total related medical costs at an estimated $14.5 billion per year.’ Asthma patients tend to also suffer from allergic rhinitis. A recent study showed allergic rhinitis occurred in 99% of asthmatic adults and 93% of asthmatic adolescents; the same study reports that severe rhinitis is associated with an exacerbation of asthma.”
Aspirin and acetaminophen also can prompt asthma.
Some other triggers are animal dander, dust mites, mold, chlorine, car exhaust fumes, tobacco smoke, smoke from a wood-burning stove or fireplace, latex, cleaning chemicals, newsprint and fabric dyes, and formaldehyde-containing sprays, polishes, building materials, fabrics, and personal hygiene products.
Conventional drug treatment for asthma focuses on controlling or preventing symptoms.
Common prescription medications include oral and inhaled corticosteroids (cortisone), epinephrine (adrenaline) shots, including home kits for emergencies; theophylline (methylxanthine), a mild-to-moderate bronchodilator; cromolyn sodium, a preventive and-inflammatory; and the newer adrenaline mimics called beta agonists (such as albuterol), usually prescribed in bronchodilator form.