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Are you breathless with asthma?

House Calls

Gerald W. Deas M.D., MPH | 6/5/2014, 12:02 p.m.
Asthma is like blowing up a balloon and constricting the opening that allows the air to escape.
Asthma diagram

Asthma is like blowing up a balloon and constricting the opening that allows the air to escape. The constriction causes a wheezing sound, and of course, the length of time to empty the balloon is increased. In other words, it’s difficult to get air in and out of the balloon. The purpose of breathing is to supply the body with oxygen and to relieve the body of its waste product, carbon dioxide. If the body becomes deficient of oxygen, all tissues in the body suffer.

The lungs are made up of hundreds of tubes known as bronchi, which terminate in small sacs known as alveoli, where gases are exchanged. The tubes, which are very small, are surrounded by muscles that can constrict or relax. These tubes are also lined with tissue that, if irritated, can swell and produce mucus. If constriction of the tubes takes place and mucus accumulates, an asthmatic attack will result. Usually, an allergic reaction causes tubes to react.

In the treatment of asthma, medications are available that will dilate the tubes as well as reduce the swelling of the lining. There are many drugs on the market that are very effective in attacking these two conditions. Not everyone will respond to the same drugs, and therefore, the physician must tailor each drug to the patient’s condition.

Asthmatic attacks are caused by many environmental factors, such as the following:

  • Sulfites (metabisulfites) that are found in many beverages (wines and non-alcoholic drinks).
  • Forced air heating, which may be contaminated with rat and mice feces, as well as mold.
  • Carpets, stuffed animals and down products in clothing and bedding.
  • Mold under carpets and in air conditioners.
  • Inexpensive pillows (no zipper present) filled with discarded fabrics and shredded foam.
  • Vapors from products such as Magic Shave (hydrogen sulfide), as well as chlorine in your hot shower.
  • Dander from dogs, cats and birds.
  • Dry cleaning fluid from clothing that should be aired before storing.
  • Perfumes, incense, aerosol sprays (hair, cleaners and deodorizers).
  • Fluorides in toothpaste.
  • Dusting powders.
  • Roach dust, mite dust found in old mattresses.
  • The mixture of bleach and ammonia, which produces a toxic gas.
  • Fruits that have been sulfited with sulphur dioxide.
  • Lipstick that contains many petroleum products. (Organic lipstick can be found in health food stores).
  • Chemicals and dust found in the workplace, such as fumes from copying machines.
  • Exhaust fumes from automobiles (cooling and heating systems within the automobile).

It is extremely important to review the above possible causes of asthma in order to prevent it rather than just to treat it. It is important, however, to be treated aggressively at its first signs by a medical professional. Never wait to see whether your breathing will improve through the use of home remedies.