Asthma is a chronic respiratory condition characterized by inflammation and narrowing of the airways, leading to recurrent episodes of wheezing, coughing, shortness of breath, and chest tightness. The exact causes of asthma are not fully understood, but it is believed to result from a combination of genetic and environmental factors. Based on available data, it is estimated that at least 30 million Indians are affected with asthma .
Common Asthma Symptoms
An early diagnosis of asthma can make a significant difference in disease progression and outcomes, as early and appropriate treatment helps manage the condition and lowers the risk of asthma-related morbidities and complications such as impaired lung function . This is especially important for asthma in children, but we’ll first look at asthma signs and symptoms in adults as these are regarded as the main symptoms of the disease :
A whistling or squeaky sound when breathing, often during exhalation, is a common symptom of asthma.
Shortness Of Breath
You may experience a feeling of breathlessness, as if you cannot get enough air into your lungs.
A sensation of pressure or constriction in the chest is one of the most common allergic asthma symptoms. It may feel like something is squeezing or weighing down on your chest.
Asthma Cough Symptoms
Persistent or recurrent coughing, especially at night or early in the morning, can be a sign of asthma. This cough may worsen with physical activity or exposure to triggers.
Asthma symptoms often worsen at night, causing sleep disturbances. You may experience coughing, wheezing, or shortness of breath that disrupts your sleep.
Coughing Or Wheezing After Exercise
Physical exertion can trigger asthma symptoms in some individuals. If you frequently experience coughing or wheezing after exercising, it could be a sign of exercise-induced asthma.
Asthma can be triggered by allergies. If you notice that your symptoms worsen when exposed to certain allergens such as pollen, dust mites, or pet dander, it may indicate asthma.
Diagnosing Asthma In Children
Recognizing asthma symptoms is a little more challenging with children but any of the following symptoms or pattern of symptoms could be indicative of juvenile asthma .
- Frequent incidents of coughing, breathing difficulties, or chest tightness
- Increased presence of symptoms at night, resulting in impaired sleep
- Asthma attack symptoms that appear to be triggered by upper respiratory tract infections or exercise and from exposure to allergens such as pollen, pet dander, dust mold, aerosols, and smoke.
If you suspect that your child may have asthma, talk to your pediatrician or an Ayurvedic specialist about getting a complete medical history and physical exam to make a more accurate diagnosis. For children above the age of five, pre- and post-bronchodilator spirometry that is also used in adults, is the most effective diagnostic tool to confirm an asthma diagnosis .
Living With Asthma
The Ayurvedic perspective of asthma is not very different from conventional medicine as it also recognizes the presence of different types of asthma, which can be either acute or chronic. Ayurvedic texts also identify the same risk factors and risk avoidance as critical to controlling asthma. The difference is that Ayurveda offers insight into the role of natural energy forces or doshas as their balance has a direct impact on disease development and progression.
Aggravation and accumulation of kapha dosha is regarded as the underlying cause, as this spreads and obstructs vata, which in turn adversely affects the flow of prana or life breath. Ayurvedic treatment therefore addresses symptoms but also seeks to restore the proper dosha balance and improve lung function with the help of herbal medications and therapies like panchakarma.
Ayurvedic Treatments For Asthma
Ayurvedic medications for asthma or bronchitis that contain ingredients such as Haridra, Sunth, Tulsi and Yashtimadhu are effective at providing relief from asthma. Studies show that these ingredients can reduce airway inflammation and spasms of the smooth airway muscles because of their anti-inflammatory, anti-allergic and adaptogenic properties 6,7,8.
Exercise is important for all of us including anyone with asthma, but intense exercise can often trigger asthma attacks. However, mild or low intensity yoga practices that are recommended in Ayurveda are proven to reduce the frequency and severity of asthma attacks 9.
Pranayamas are among the most important of all therapies for asthma patients as they can enhance lung function, lowering the risk and severity of asthma attacks. Research shows that pranayamas are an effective form of therapy for asthma, not only benefiting respiratory function, but also reducing anxiety and stress, which can trigger attacks 10.
While the symptoms of asthma may be fairly easy to recognize, it’s important to seek help as poorly controlled asthma increases the risk not just of asthma attacks, but also asthma complications. Talk to an Ayurvedic doctor about appropriate treatments based on your experience of asthma and dosha balance.