Of course, anyone who’s had asthma since childhood is familiar with its various medications, such as the Ventolin inhaler, which is used during an attack, and theophylline which is taken in pill form and provides longer-lasting relief.

If you have had asthma for many years but have kept it under control with medications, you are still prone to developing an occasional respiratory tract infection caused by a virus or bacterium or exposure to chemicals, paints, or insecticides. This can bring on an acute wheezing episode that’s known as a bronchospasm. If you have such an infection, your doctor will prescribe antibiotics and a bronchodilator spray such as Ventolin. If you are 40 or older, you might also be given an injection of epinephrine as long as you don’t have a history of cardiac disease. Epinephrine is a bronchodilator and decongestant that will help keep spasms from occurring in the lung and bronchial tissue.

But again, most asthmatics are comfortable with self-treatment, and their disease usually doesn’t progress past the point where more serious treatment is necessary. If the usual inhalers and medication fail to work, however, or the wheezing is accompanied by shortness of breath, you should seek medical attention, especially if you’re over 50.

During the initial exam, your doctor will do a physical exam and check your health history. He may also choose to take a chest X ray if he believes an infection is present. A handheld peak-flow meter, a device you exhale into that measures the volume of air you’re able to exhale quickly, will also help your doctor to tailor your treatment.

Sometimes the wheezing is very pronounced and the typical therapies aren’t effective. If this is the case, you may have to be hospitalized. You will be given oxygen, and the amount of oxygen in your blood will be monitored with either regular blood tests or an oximeter, a device that measures the blood oxygen level in your earlobe or finger without piercing the skin.


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April 9, 2009 · Posted in General health  


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