see also Asthma in Children
Partial, reversible obstruction of the major and minor airways (bronchi and bronchioles) of the lungs due to inflammation of the airways and contraction of the muscles in their walls. Asthma which onsets in childhood is usually caused by allergic reactions to house dust, house dust mite, pollens, animal fur, feathers, cigarette smoke, and other inhaled irritants (see Allergy), but it can also be triggered off by drugs, withdrawal from caffeine, exercise, emotional upsets and changes in the weather. An increased incidence has been noted associated with lightning, increased humidity, increased sulphur-dioxide levels, falls in temperature, high rainfall and high grass-pollen counts.
It also seems to be associated in affluent countries with the style of housing, the heating and soft furnishings. It is notable that when East and West Germany were reunited, although pollution was at a greater level in the East and housing was less luxurious there was a lower incidence of asthma than in West Germany. Other triggers include the aroma of fruits cooking, cold winds and even opening freezers. Symptoms are periodic breathlessness, a tight feeling in the chest, wheezing, increased pulse rate, Anxiety, and sometimes coughing (see Cough). In severe cases, growth may be stunted, or sufferer may develop emphysema; occasionally an attack proves fatal. A family history of asthma, Hay Fever and Allergic Rhinitis, or Eczema seems to be a predisposing factor; asthma is also more common in affluent families with only one or two children; 1 in 10 children of school age suffers from asthma, but only 3 per cent of adults. Asthma which onsets in middle life represents a more fundamental breakdown in health, and is more difficult to treat.
Once severity of condition has been assessed, medical doctor may prescribe bronchodilator drugs to be taken during attacks, or preventive drugs such as steroids to be taken on a daily basis; such drugs are usually inhaled. Always see your medical doctor if asthma fails to respond to orthodox or homeopathic treatment, or if inhalers or other drugs have to be used more often than prescribed (over dosage may be dangerous).
If sufferer turns bluish, or very pale and clammy during an attack, or if breathing rate climbs above 40 breaths a minute, contact Emergency Medical Services; he or she may need to be put on a respirator and given drugs to relax lung and chest muscles.
Homeopathic approach to chronic asthma is constitutional (drugs such as Intal and Ventolin are compatible with homeopathic remedies). If attacks are allergen-caused, homeopathy offers allergens in homeopathic potency, i.e. Cat’s hair 6c hourly before and during exposure. The remedies listed below are for use in acute attacks; however, if symptoms do not wear off within 12 hours, see your medical doctor. If symptoms worsen, consult your doctor if there is not improvement in 2 hours.
Specific remedies to be taken every 15 minutes for up to 10 doses
- Attack comes on between midnight and 2 am, person very anxious, restless, and chilly, thirsty for sips of water, feels better sitting up Arsenicum 30c
- Small amounts of phlegm coughed up, persistent nausea and perhaps vomiting, chest feels as if there is a heavy weight on it Ipecac. 30c
- Asthma bad between 2-4 am, person gets up and sits with face on knees, looks pale and tired, feels chilly Kali carb. 30c
- Exhaustion, weakness, mucus in lungs cannot be coughed up and causes rattly breathing, skin pale, cold, and clammy Antimonium tart. 30c
- Muscle spasms in lungs and in rest of body, vomiting after each spasm Cuprum 30c
- Asthma particularly bad after digestive upset and around 4 am Nux 30c
- Asthma worse in damp conditions, often associated with early morning diarrhoea Natrum sulph. 30c
- Attack comes on suddenly, especially after exposure to cold dry wind, anxiety and fear of dying, particularly if attack occurs at night Aconite 30c
- Tight, constricted feeling in throat made worse by anything worn around neck, person sits hunched forward, asthma particularly bad in morning on waking Lachesis 30c
- Attack comes on after grief or break-up of love affair Ignatia 30c
- Asthma improves in damp conditions Hepar sulph. 30c
Self-help: During an attack, sit with elbows resting on the back of a chair - this lifts upper part of ribcage and makes it easier to exhale. Check for allergies to pollen, food, beverages, and pollutants in your home or work environment. If asthma is bad at night and early in the morning, you may be allergic to house dust mites; since these live on shed skin, they thrive in mattresses and bedclothes. Remove sheets and blankets from bed, thoroughly vacuum mattress, put an airtight plastic cover on mattress, then cover this with two or three clean blankets, clean undersheet, clean sheets, etc. Keep bedroom as dust-free as possible - this may mean removing books, soft toys, and even carpets, putting a fine screen over open windows. Invest in a humidifier - dry air only increases breathing difficulties.
If you are allergic to feathers, use polyester-filled pillows and duvets. If you are allergic to pet hairs, and cannot contemplate living without pets, periodically remove pets from the house for a day or two and thoroughly clean house from top to bottom, using a Hydromist cleaner to remove hairs from carpets, curtains, cushions, and furniture. If you have a partner who smokes, try to limit his or her smoking to one room in the house; at work, agitate for smoke-free zones.
When exercising breathe through the nose and not of the mouth. Swimming seems to be the best exercise . Take care when lighting fires. Don't go to bed on a full stomach and try propping up the bed on a couple of bricks. Try avoiding milk, eggs, nuts, seafood, salt and food additives. Aspirin, non-steroid anti-inflammatories, and betablockers may precipitate asthma. Try Vitamin B6. An allergy to royal jelly has also been implicated.