Hay fever and asthma are very frequent nowadays. Allergy or hay fever is the inflammatory reaction of the respiratory system to an allergen. All allergic attack initially begins as acute episodes of runny nose, watery eyes, itching, etc. It will occur periodically to one or more allergens. This article excludes anaphylactic reactions to nuts, eggs, etc., which are potentially life-threatening. When this condition progresses and becomes more sustained, it is called asthma. Hay fever and asthma are exaggerated responses of the immune cells to certain allergens. Many of the inflammatory substances that mediate this reaction are common to asthma and hay fever. Hence, in many cases, the treatments are also similar. The general treatment always includes avoidance of the allergen, a quick shot of antihistamine to prevent the attack from sustaining, a substance that helps dilate the airway during an attack, and long-term steroid and anti-inflammatory drugs to prevent further attacks.
What Are the Respiratory Changes Due to Asthma?
The changes in the respiratory system of a person suffering from asthma include:
Presence of excess mucus clogging the airways.
The muscles of the respiratory system tighten and squeeze around the airways.
Swelling inside the airways.
What Are the Symptoms of Asthma?
The signs and symptoms of asthma include:
Shortness of breath.
Chest pain or chest tightness.
Trouble sleeping due to shortness of breath, wheezing, or coughing.
Wheezing or coughing attacks that worsen by a cold or the flu.
Wheezing while exhaling.
How Do Medications Help to Manage Asthma?
The National Institute of Health (NIH) has stated that asthma cannot be cured and can only be controlled. Avoiding allergens is easy when they are few and known. But, potentially, people are exposed to thousands of allergens each day. It will be terrible if a person has to avoid all those. Also, it is extremely easy for an allergic tendency to shift from one allergen to many in a short span of time.
1. Histamine - Histamine is the chemical that acts as a catalyst in hay fever and asthma. The uncontrolled immune response of the respiratory system causes immune cells to attack allergens such as pollens, smelling agents, etc., thereby releasing histamine. Histamine causes dilation of blood vessels, increasing fluid content in the tissues, and causing various symptoms ranging from a runny nose to breathlessness. Antihistamines are the lifesavers that stop these symptoms from happening. But do they prevent immune cells from attacking the allergens? In fact, the immune cells are still attacking the allergens, except that people do not realize it. The antihistamine stops the action of releasing histamine on the surrounding tissues. So, while the immune system is still overzealously active and destroying allergens, the affected person is largely unaware of this.
2. Bronchodilators - Bronchodilators like Theophylline help dilate the airways, especially during a severe acute attack, and help prevent the attack from being life-threatening. But again, similar to antihistamines, they do not alter the immune cells in any way. Thus, antihistamines or bronchodilators do not alter immune cells but reduce the effect of histamine on the tissues.
3. Steroids - The next step is the long-term treatment of steroid inhalation. Steroids have a suppressive effect on the immune system. They reduce the production of antibodies (immunoglobulin) and also reduce the fighting power of immune cells. Unfortunately, steroids are not target-specific. While they definitely alter the immune response to allergens, they also suppress the immune system in general, thereby leaving the host more vulnerable to other illnesses. Basically, none of the treatment modalities reverse the tendency of the immune system to react in an exaggerated fashion.
What Are the Different Types of Devices for Asthma Medicines?
People can take asthma medicine by breathing them through an inhaler or nebulizer. It allows the medicine to reach directly into the lungs. Asthma medicines are also available in pill form, injectable, or infusion form.
1. Inhalers - Inhalers should be used correctly as guided by the doctor. Inhaler mistakes can result in uncontrolled asthma. Four types of inhalers are available, which include:
Dry Powder Inhalers - They do not spray the medicine out of the inhaler as they do not have a propellant. It releases the medicine when a person breathes it in.
Metered Dose Inhalers - They have a propellant that sprays the medicines out of the inhaler in a short burst.
Breath Actuated Inhalers - They have an aerosol or dry powder medicine. The medicine releases from the inhaler when the person breathes it in.
Soft Mist Inhalers - They spray a cloud of medicine softly out of the inhaler without a propellant.
2. Nebulizer - A nebulizer machine or breathing machine works by turning liquid asthma medicine into a mist. The medicine can be taken through a mask or mouthpiece. People have to simply breathe in and out normally once the nebulizer is set and ready to use. Hence making it easier to use than inhalers.
3. Injectables or Biologics - Injectable asthma treatments are infusions or shots given every few weeks. Shots are given at the doctor’s office or using an auto-injector at home. Infusions are given intravenously at the doctor’s clinic.
How to Prevent and Reverse Asthma?
A few steps that can have a good chance of getting hay fever or asthma reversed include:
Smoking, alcohol, trans-fatty acids, etc., increase free radicals, which keep the immune system constantly at work. Altered sleep habits, sedentary work, and reduced exercise also contribute to the disruption of the normal immune system.
Natural treatments like ayurveda, herbal medicine, etc., can limit the symptoms of an acute episode.
Homeopathic treatment can also reverse the tendency to allergies. Since homeopathic treatment is individualized, it touches the root cause of the deranged immune system of each individual. The prognosis and duration definitely depend on at what stage the therapy is taken. The earlier homeopathic treatment is instituted, the better the chances of full recovery.
Every case of asthma is different, and hence the treatment plan also differs. Although there is no permanent cure for it, there are ways to manage the symptoms and let the affected person lead a normal life. Asthma medicines do have side effects. If experiencing any problem due to the medicines, consult the doctor immediately.