Definitions & Treatment

Definition of Asthma | Exercise-Induced Asthma | Diagnosing Children | Pulmonary Function Tests | Allergy Testing | Treating Allergies & Asthma | Environmental Controls | Asthma Injections | Medications Conclusions

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Treating Asthma

The three basic ways of treating allergies and asthma are (1) Environmental Controls; (2) Allergy Injections; and (3) Medication. Other considerations include Emotions, Sports, School, and Aspirin.


Emotions do not cause asthma. However, a person has to have the asthmatic lung in order to have an asthma attack. That is, the manifestations of emotions can trigger an asthma attack, but if someone does not have the asthmatic lung, she can laugh, scream, cry, have a tantrum until she is blue in the face and she will never wheeze. However, when a person has the asthmatic lung or "twitchy lung," the slightest emotional turmoil can set off an episode of wheezing.

This is not an emotional problem. The psychiatrists have probably done somewhat of a disservice by overemphasizing the emotional aspects of asthma and, at times, people have said that it is all emotional. This is just not true. I think, however, that we must be aware of the emotional contribution to an asthma attack and put it in perspective and consider it in the same category as pets, pollution, weather changes, and upper respiratory infections, all of which can trigger an attack so that in general, psychiatric problems are not any more common in asthma than other chronic illnesses.

I think one must still, however, be aware of what precipitates the patient's asthma attack. One frequently hears that one birthdays, Thanksgiving, Christmas, or Hanukkah, that a child with asthma is always sick. There may, in fact, be a variety of contributing factors. The child may be very excited at the party, people may be smoking, he may also have a cold. All of these things together can contribute. If it is Christmas time, the scent from the tree or the molds on them can set off an attack. So if a person is not on daily medication, he might anticipate difficult times that have occurred historically and begin the asthma medication the night before the party.


Athletic activities are important for all people, particularly those with a chronic illness. Almost all asthmatics can participate in most sports if appropriately treated. For reasons which are unclear, swimming is the least asthmagenic, that is, the least asthma causing and is certainly recommended for all patients with asthma. Most other sports can be played except with an occasional exception. Appropriate medical treatment is available to prevent exercise-induced asthma, that is, asthma that results from exertion.


School is important for all children and many asthmatics, if not appropriately treated, will miss many weeks and even months of school. In the asthmatic who is properly treated, it is rare for him to miss more than a few days of school.


Aspirin should be avoided by all people with asthma since it can precipitate a severe asthma attack. Acetaminophen (i.e., Tylenol) should be used instead. There are over 400 preparations which contain aspirin, so it is important to read labels carefully.


In conclusion, I would like to emphasize that the quality of life of the asthmatic can be essentially the same as someone who does not have asthma, if one takes medications regularly, initiates appropriate environmental controls, and if indicated, begins allergy injections.