Three breathing techniques for controlling asthma

Asthma management is primarily done with the use of anti-inflammatories and inhalers, both emergency ones and for prolonged use.

However, complementary treatment methodologies do have their place in the successful long term management of the condition.

Some may consider it to be unorthodox. But research has proven that some of them, especially breathing techniques that help to counter the triggers that aggravate asthma are very effective when used appropriately.

Today we take a look at the top three breathing techniques that can help alleviate some of the symptoms of asthma. When practiced regularly, these can also be used in helping preventing attacks and controlling an attack when it occurs.

Please remember though that regular use of asthma medication or an emergency plan, is still a prerequisite and this should never be construed as an alternative for it. In due time, you might be able to stop using medication completely. But always consult a doctor before you make any modifications to your existing medication plan.

Pranayama (Yoga)

Yoga, has for thousands of years emphasized on breathing techniques for helping strengthen the lung muscles and the diaphragm, thereby helping asthmatics in gaining better control over their breath rhythms. In fact, a study conducted in India, has proven the effectiveness of Pranayama in helping control bronchial asthma symptoms. (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3017963/)

You can start off by simple breathing techniques that help prevent over breathing and help establish a rhythmic breathing pattern. Once you are able to gain some amount of control, you can progress to advanced breath modification methods.

Pranayama is easy. But it does take a lot of patience to master. There are many YouTube videos that can help you get started. It is highly recommended that you do not advance to Kapalbhati or other advanced exercises for at least 6 to 8 months after starting Pranayama. If at any time, you feel overwhelmed or breathless, just stop and take a break. Walk around for a while. It might just be the anxiety causing you to hyperventilate.

Buteyko technique

Since breathing is also controlled by the autonomous nervous system, your emotions play a key role in governing it. If you are angry or agitated, the breathing automatically gets short and more difficult. Dr. Konstantin Buteyko, a doctor in Russia developed a breathing technique that is now officially recognized in many countries as a complementary non-pharmacological therapy for asthma management.

The Buteyko technique is designed with a series of lessons or exercises that help asthmatics reduce over breathing or hyperventilating. This in turn reduces the carbon dioxide that you exhale from your lungs and prevents it from getting inflamed further.

With regular practice, asthmatics can learn how to prevent breathing from the mouth, learn how to relax their diaphragm and also exercise without hyperventilating.

Alexander Technique

Matthias Alexander, an Australian actor created a set of techniques to help correct postural inadequacies that are helpful to an extent in helping improve the quality of breathing. The Alexander technique works by realigning the spine, the neck and the head when you sit, stand, walk or are performing everyday activities.

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Dealing with an Asthma Attack

Living with someone who has asthma and witnessing an asthma attack are two different things entirely. More often than not, caregivers never see a full-blown asthma attack. But when they do, they are left shocked and clueless.

It may appear that the patient may choke to their death in minutes. But in reality, an asthma attack can be painstakingly slow.

If you or someone close to you has asthma, then here are a few tips on how to deal with an asthma attack.

Understand the attack

There’s a widespread notion that an asthma attack is always associated with wheezing. That’s not always the case. Many a time, the muscles in the airway get constricted so badly that the person may not be able to breathe at all.

And unless they breathe, how can there be wheezing noise?

The first thing that you need to do as caregivers or even if you are the person suffering from the attack is to identify the severity of the condition.

While a mild attack can easily be controlled at home, a severe one can be life threatening and needs emergency medical attention.

Mild attacks can have symptoms like a sudden tinge of blue to the lips and inability to speak coherently while a person can collapse in a severe attack and their skin might seem to be sucked in between the ribs. If it is a severe attack, seek emergency medical help.

Five basic steps

Here’s what you need to do in case the attack is a mild one.

Help them stay calm

You need to reassure the patient that things are going to be fine and that you are there to help. More importantly, you need to stay calm yourself. Panic and anxiety can aggravate an attack that has already begun. Appear confident and in control of the situation. It will help the patient to relax.

Help them sit straight

If they are lying down or have fallen on the floor while gasping for breath, help them to sit straight in an upright position. This reduces the chances of their airways getting obstructed due to the posture.

Move them away from the trigger if possible

Asthma can be triggered by a variety of things. If you are aware of the trigger, try to move the person away from it. For example, if someone is smoking in the room, move them out of the room or if it is triggered by exercise, ask them to stop immediately. Move them into an airy and well ventilated space. If you are unaware of the trigger, ask the patient.

Check for the asthma emergency plan

Asthma patients may have an emergency plan on them. Search the person for the plan and follow the instructions printed on it. It may involve the use of rescue inhalers and other anti-inflammatory medications. Administer the medication with the help of the patient. Also, if you feel that the symptoms are not decreasing even after the use of rescue inhalers, then contact an emergency room immediately.

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10 Facts about Asthma that everyone must know

The number of people suffering from Asthma, one of the commonest breathing disorders in the world is all set to amplify as the quality of air we breathe deteriorates each passing day. Stressful lifestyles is another key factor that is contributing towards it.

It is imperative that there be more awareness about the condition, its symptoms and its potential cures.

Here are 10 facts about Asthma that you may not be aware of.

#1 – Asthma can be triggered by multiple things. It can be intense exercise, stress, pollution, infections in the respiratory tract, allergens or smoke. In some cases, asthma attacks have also been triggered by certain medications.

#2 – A person cannot breathe during an asthma attack. The muscles in the airway gets constricted and the body starts to produce a thick mucus that produces a wheezing noise as the person breathes in and out. The person can also experience coughing, a tightness or severe pain in the chest.

#3 – More than 20 million people in the United States suffer from Asthma. It is predicted that almost 4000 people die each year from asthma related complications that can easily be prevented.

#4 – A child suffering from Asthma will most likely carry the symptoms into adulthood. There’s a misconception that the child may outgrow the symptoms. But that’s a myth.

#5 – Only 10% of people with mild asthma ever progress to a more severe and advanced stage of the condition. Also, mild asthmatics can have the same quality of life as a non-asthmatic. The condition can easily be managed with exercise and medication.

#6 – Cigarette smoke is one of the leading causes of Asthma. This includes second hand smoke by the way. So even if your partner is a chain smoker, you are at risk for asthma.

#7 – In extreme cases, Asthma can be fatal because the oxygen supply to the brain is cut off. Many people mistake this to be a cardiac arrest. But the two are completely different scenarios.

#8 – If you are the caregiver or live with a person suffering from asthma, it is crucial that you know about the basic steps to take in case of an asthma attack. If the central nervous system isn’t harmed during the attack until you get the person to a hospital, the chances of them surviving the attack increases manifold.

#9 – The rescue inhaler is only to be used in an emergency situation or as part of an asthma management plan. A lot of patients abuse the inhaler (typically Albuterol) due to the mild stimulant effect it creates in the body. But overuse can cause severe side effects including palpitations, panic attacks and flutter. Not recommended!

#10 – As children, boys are more prone to the condition as compared to girls. While the exact opposite occurs during adulthood when women are more likely to have asthma as compared to men. The reason behind this is unknown. But some studies attribute this to the different way in which the airway function develops in both sexes.

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