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How to Manage Reactive Airway Disease and Asthma

One minute you’re breathing just fine and the next, you’re gasping for air. This sudden flare-up is typically the result of a reactive airway disease, which may or may not be asthma. Regardless of the diagnosis, all you know is that you’re having trouble breathing, and you want to breathe easier again.

Drs. Cecil Yeung and Marcus Hershey and our team here at Houston Sinus Surgery successfully treat breathing issues of all kinds, from nasal polyps to chronic sinusitis. With a reactive airway disorder like asthma, however, the treatments look a little different as we need to control the issue long-term, as well as be at the ready for a flare-up.

Defining a reactive airway disease

The title of this section is a bit misleading as the term, “reactive airway disease,” is simply a description we use to label the bronchial spasms while we search for a diagnosis. In most cases, when we identify a reactive airway disorder, it’s likely a precursor to an asthma diagnosis, but not always. In less common cases, a reactive airway issue can arise when you inhale too many toxic fumes or as a result of chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder.

Making matters more complicated, if you’re reading this because your child is having breathing issues, we usually can’t definitively diagnose asthma until the age of five. Instead, we loosely call the problem a reactive airway disease.

Whatever the underlying cause, the most common symptoms of a breathing issue such as this are:

  • Wheezing
  • Coughing
  • Shortness of breath
  • Mucus in your airways
  • A feeling like your throat is closing

If you experience these symptoms on a regular basis, it’s time to have us help you put a management strategy in place.

Managing your reactive airway disease

As we mentioned, managing an ongoing reactive airway disease is typically a two-pronged approach. First, we try to ward off a flare-up through controller medications that reduce the swelling and mucus in your airways. These medications should be taken regularly, even if you’re feeling just fine and they aren’t designed for use during a flare-up.

Second, we want to make sure that you have rescue medications on hand to use during a flare-up. These fast-acting inhalers or nebulizers work to quickly reduce the swelling in the airways, but you shouldn’t use them more than two times per week.

You can also use your rescue medication when you know you’re going to be in a situation that may lead to a flare-up, such as playing outdoors. If you use the inhaler about 15-20 minutes before you head out, you may be able to prevent a flare-up.

Outside of these medications, it’s important to understand, and avoid, your triggers. This may take some time to identify them, but once we do, we can come up with a plan that will keep you out of harm’s way as much as possible.

If you want to learn more about strategies for managing a reactive airway disease, contact our office in Houston, Texas, to set up a consultation.

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