Asthma Treatment: Early vs. Late Phases Of Asthma

Asthma is a respiratory condition that results from spasms in the bronchi of the lungs. It is usually an allergic response to an allergen, and is characterized by symptoms such as wheezing, congestion, coughing and sometimes shortness of breath.

The allergen can vary from pollen, dust, certain foods or drugs. The allergens cause the air passages to constrict and also trigger excess mucus production due to the stimulation of inflammatory cells.

Children comprise the majority of asthma sufferers since they are more susceptible to allergens and have a more fragile immune system. Treatment includes controlling the exposure to identified allergens and taking appropriate anti-inflammatory medications, according to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America.

Phase 1

The first phase of Asthma is usually easy to control and is rarely life-threatening. It is characterized by wheezing, coughing and other asthmatic symptoms occurring once or twice a week.

It should also be noted that the early-phase response involves residential cells of the lungs such as the mast cells and factors such as the histamine. These cells once stimulated produce vasoactive factors that lead to the constriction of blood vessels and smooth muscles. This constriction is normally the cause of difficulty in breathing.

In children, normal lung activity and function are observed. Treatment usually involves administration of short-acting inhaler such as albuterol which is beta-adrenergic agonists. This is a type of drug that functions similar to adrenaline leading to the relaxation of smooth muscles. Therefore, these drugs restore normal breathing by dilating the airways and can be administered to individuals suffering the acute form of asthma.

However, you should note that the short-acting beta-adrenergic drugs may be ineffective in relieving late-phase asthmatic symptoms.

Phase 2

The second phase is characterized by increased attacks during the day and at night, occurring intermittently. The signs include dyspnea, wheezing, tightening of the chest, etc. Lung activity and function begin to deteriorate as the condition progresses. The mast cells are in larger numbers and so are the vasoactive factors.

Treatment involves a combination of short-acting beta-adrenergic agonists and a long-acting drug such as steroids. The steroids can be ingested in tablet form or injected into the body intravenously. They function to suppress the overactive immune response in the lungs, therefore relieving the patient of the painful asthmatic symptoms, consequently preventing tissue damage to the lungs.

Phase 3

The third phase involves frequent and more severe asthmatic attacks occurring several times during the day and at night. This is brought about by frequent exposure to an allergen and increased allergic response which can damage the lung tissue. Hence the lungs normal function and activity is interfered with.

The late-phase response involves the recruitment of eosinophils, neutrophils, and macrophages which release factors that function to eliminate the irritant through the release of chemotactic factors.

Treatment in the late phase involves the use of long-lasting beta-adrenergic agonist e.g. salmeterol or formoterol that function to open the airways for 10 hours or more. They are supplemented by a high dosage of inhaled steroids such as Aerobid.

You can, however, reduce your chance of getting asthma attacks through behavioral and physical activities e.g. avoiding stress and taking deep breaths, sleeping and healthy eating.

Photo: Pexels

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