Do You Have a Cough that Won’t Quit?
We’ve all been there at some point. A nagging tickle in your throat steals your sleep and has you reaching for cough drops and water. Air quality, allergies, the common cold, or viruses are the primary triggers of coughing. However, when shortness of breath and fatigue accompany the cough, you should make an appointment to see your primary care doctor.
“Asthma is a lifelong disease that causes wheezing, breathlessness, chest tightness, and coughing,” explains Heartland Regional Family Medicine Specialist Elizabeth Eversmann, FNP-BC. “Certain elements can cause allergic reactions and decrease air circulation to the lungs by inflaming and restricting the bronchial tubes.”
According to the CDC, one in 12 people or 25 million people have asthma in the U.S., and the numbers are increasing every year.
The first step in diagnosing asthma is to see your primary care provider for a complete examination, including measuring lung function with a peak flow meter. “Several factors can trigger asthma. Your primary care physician may ask if you have had a recent illness before the onset of symptoms, or exposure to second-hand smoke or other potential allergens, such as mold, pet dander, or pollen; or whether any immediate family members also have the disease,” Eversmann said. “Once the physician determines an asthma diagnosis, treatment options vary depending upon the severity of the disease, and patients may be referred to a pulmonologist or allergist for further care.”
Although asthma isn’t curable, it is a treatable and manageable disease. According to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology, the most prescribed medications for asthma include:
- Inhaled corticosteroids: These medications are prescribed for the long-term management and maintenance of asthma symptoms.
- Long-acting beta-agonists: These medications are prescribed with inhaled corticosteroids as an additional form of preventive care against asthma attacks.
- Leukotriene modifiers: These oral medications are prescribed to treat allergies that may trigger asthma flare-ups.
- Immunomodulators: These allergy injections may help prevent asthma problems in those whose asthma is not controlled well by inhaled corticosteroids.
- Short-acting bronchodilators: These inhaled medications are fast-acting for immediate relief during an asthma attack.
Avoiding Asthma Triggers
- Keep an asthma journal. Track when symptoms arise, what triggers an attack, and how long it lasts. Share the information with your physician to help develop a more thorough care plan and avoid future asthma attacks.
- Encourage hand-washing and avoiding touching your nose and mouth so common colds and viruses don’t turn into asthma flare-ups.
- During the current COVID-19 surge in cases, get vaccinated if you have not yet. People with moderate-to-severe or uncontrolled asthma are more likely to be hospitalized from COVID-19.
- Exercise to build lung strength and capacity. Some sports, such as walking, baseball, softball, golf, or gymnastics, may be better suited for kids with asthma.
- Eat more asthma-friendly foods that can help reduce symptoms. Foods high in vitamins A, B6, and C—such as avocados, oranges, apples, broccoli, and spinach—can lower the release of histamines and help decrease the risk of symptoms.
- Use a dehumidifier to dry the air for easier breathing.
- Dust and vacuum often to keep dust particles out of the air.
- Avoid mold, a fungus that grows in damp, humid areas. Mold can be inside and outside.
- Keep pet dander to a minimum. Frequent bathing and grooming of pets and vacuuming away pet hair can help.
- Change air filters regularly.
- Invest in an air purifier, which utilizes HEPA and carbon filters to trap airborne particles that trigger allergic reactions and worsen asthma.
If you have questions about your persistent cough or asthma, schedule an appointment with your primary care provider online at HeartlandAnytime.com.