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Asthma symptoms explained

Why does asthma cause breathlessness?

To find out, we need to look at a cross-section of an airway in the lungs. The airways are covered with a thin lining (fig 1).

A viral infection can cause an inflammation of this lining. For example, a virus causing a cold will cause you to develop a runny nose. When it affects the lining of the airways in the lungs of people with asthma, it can result in a gradual build up of mucus (fig 2). The second cause of (acute) breathlessness is a constriction of the airways (fig 3) caused by muscle activity.

It is interesting that, the more an animal species evolves, the more aware it becomes of its surroundings. It develops eyes, ears and a sense of smell (see figure 1). Parallel with this increase in consciousness, carbon dioxide (CO 2)-rich venous blood becomes separated from arterial oxygen (O 2)-rich blood. So, the more the animal species evolves, the more the arterial and venous blood is separated in the circulatory system, and the more conscious it becomes.

The airways in the lungs of people with asthma tend to be more irritable. The airways contract, or build up mucus, when they are irritated. The causes of irritability of the airways are smoke, exercise, cold air, pollen, having a cold, or even sleeping. So the treatment of asthma is directed at preventing this build up of mucus on the lining of the airways, and reducing the irritability of the airways . An anti-inflammatory inhaler (usually a brown-coloured inhaler device) is prescribed to be used regularly, to stop the inflammation which causes this build up of mucus. If there have not been any symptoms for several weeks, sufferers can try to stop using this inhaler.

The other treatment for breathlessness is an adrenoceptor stimulant inhaler like salbutamol of terbutaline (usually a blue-coloured inhaler device) which relaxes the constriction of the airways. When inhaling this, the tubes of the airways will widen, allowing more air to move in and out of the lungs. This medicine works just like adrenaline. The effects of adrenaline can easily be understood when you think of a deer in the wild seeing a lion! The deer will have a surge of adrenaline in order to help it escape. This will cause its airways to open up wide, increase the blood flow to the muscles and make its heart beat faster. The skin turns pale and it will experience a sense of fright. In other words, the deer will be primed to run away immediately. For an asthmatic person, inhaling this adrenaline-type medicine gives almost immediate relief from constriction of the airways, without causing an urge towards 'fright or flight'. In emergencies it can be given in a nebuliser. The amount given is about the same as taking at least 25 puffs from the blue inhaler.

With these two types of inhalers the symptoms of asthma are treated. Anthroposophical medicines attempt to resolve the cause by influencing the constitution in a positive way. For children, Veronica D1 combined in equal amounts with Gencydo 5% can be tried, taken as 10 drops in the evening, together with Quercus D1 and Gencydo 5% in equal amounts can be taken as 10 drops in the morning for at least three months. For adults, I suggest Gencydo 5% (Mucilago cydonia/ Succus citri) subcutaneous injections between the shoulder blades two or three times a week for 6 to 8 weeks. These need to be administered by a health professional. Always consult your doctor to supervise your treatment. Different forms of anthroposophical therapies such as Art therapy and Eurythmy (movement therapy) have been developed from suggestions made by Rudolf Steiner. These can also work favourably on this condition.

General viral chest infections.

For general coughs, try Pneumodoron, which is a combination of Aconitum D2 and Bryonia D2: 3-5 drops for children and 10 drops for adults, 4 times a day. Plantago balm can also be used as a chest rub at night. Always consult your doctor to supervise your treatment.

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