Tag Archives: Respiratory Disorders

Straight, No Chaser: Asthma Basics – (Part 2 of 2)

As we move into discussing asthma treatment, remember that asthmatics die at an alarming rate.  I mentioned yesterday (and it bears repeating) that death rates have increased over 50% in the last few decades.  If you’re an asthmatic, avoid taking care of yourself at your own peril.  Your next asthma attack could be your last.
The other thing to remember is that asthma is a reversible disease – until it’s not.  At some point (beginning somewhere around age 35 or so), the ongoing inflammation and damage to the lungs will create some irreversible changes, and then the situation’s completely different, possibly predisposing asthmatics to other conditions such as chronic bronchitis, COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) and lung cancer.  This simply reiterates the importance of identifying and removing those triggers.
Given that, let’s talk about asthma control as treatment.  Consider the following quick tips you might use to help you reduce or virtually eliminate asthma attacks:

asthmatriggers

  • Avoid cigarette smoke (including second hand smoke) like the plague!
  • Avoid long haired animals, especially cats.
  • Avoid shaggy carpets, window treatments or other household fixtures that retain dust.
  • If you’re spraying any kind of aerosol, if it’s allergy season, if you’re handling trash, or if you react to cold weather, wear a mask while you’re doing it.  It’s better to not look cool for a few moments than to have to look at an emergency room for a few hours or a hospital room for a few days.
  • Be careful to avoid colds and the flu.  Get that flu shot yearly.

If and when all of this fails, and you’re actually in the midst of an asthma attack, treatment options primarily center around two types of medications.

AsthmaHispanic

  • Short (and quick) acting bronchodilators (e.g. albuterol, ventolin, proventil, xopenex, alupent, maxair) functionally serve as props (‘toothpicks’, no not real ones, and don’t try to use toothpicks at home) to keep the airways open against the onslaught of mucous buildup inside the lungs combined with other inflammatory changes trying to clog the airways.  These medications do not treat the underlying condition.  They only buy you time and attempt to keep the airways open for…
  • Steroids (e.g. prednisone, prelone, orapred, solumedrol, decadron – none of which are the muscle building kind) are the mainstay of acute asthma treatment, as they combat the inflammatory reaction and other changes that cause the asthma attack.  One can functionally think of steroids as a dump truck moving in to scoop the snot out of the airways.  The only issue with the steroids is they take 2-4 hours to start working, so you have to both get them on board as early as possible while continuing to use the bronchodilators to stem the tide until the steroids kick in.

asthma-inhaler-techniques-15-638
If you are not successful in avoiding those triggers over the long term, you may need to be placed on ‘controller’ medications at home, which include lower doses of long-acting bronchodilators and steroids.
So in summary, the best treatment of asthma is management of its causes.  Avoid the triggers, thus reducing your acute attacks.  Become educated about signs of an attack.  When needed, get help sooner rather than later.  And always keep an inhaler on you.  It could be the difference between life and death.

Feel free to ask your SMA expert consultant any questions you may have on this topic.
Take the #72HoursChallenge, and join the community. As a thank you for being a valued subscriber to Straight, No Chaser, we’d like to offer you a complimentary 30-day membership at www.72hourslife.com. Just use the code #NoChaser, and yes, it’s ok if you share!
Order your copy of Dr. Sterling’s new books There are 72 Hours in a Day: Using Efficiency to Better Enjoy Every Part of Your Life and The 72 Hours in a Day Workbook: The Journey to The 72 Hours Life in 72 Days at Amazon or at www.72hourslife.com. Receive introductory pricing with orders!
Thanks for liking and following Straight, No Chaser! This public service provides a sample of what http://www.SterlingMedicalAdvice.com (SMA) and 844-SMA-TALK offers. Please share our page with your friends on WordPress, like us on Facebook SterlingMedicalAdvice.com and follow us on Twitter at @asksterlingmd.
Copyright © 2018 · Sterling Initiatives, LLC · Powered by WordPress

Straight, No Chaser: Asthma Basics – (Part 1 of 2)

asthmaBasics-enHD-AR1

Asthma concerns me. I’ve had many close friends and family suffer with the disease. In fact, a very good friend died of an attack while in medical school, because he didn’t have his inhaler with him. In other words, this is somewhat personal. I’ve probably given more lectures on asthma than any other topic over the years, and I can say without hesitation that relative to how much we know about its prevention and treatment, I can’t think of another disease where we under perform as much as with asthma management. According to data from the National Institutes of Health, over the last few decades the death rate has increased by over 55%. The prevalence rate has increased by 75%, and among African-Americans the hospitalization rate has increased over 35%. The good news is asthma can be controlled and effectively treated. In this primer, we’ll discuss quick tips to improve the health of the asthmatic in your life.
The encouraging thing about asthma is that if you understand what causes it, you understand how to treat it. Here’s what you need to know about what causes asthma. For the purposes of discussion I am simplifying matters for general consumption.
asthma

  • Asthma is a result of certain triggers, causing inflammation to your airways over a long period of time with the occurrence of attacks (intermittent exacerbations). These triggers can be thought of as allergens. Examples of these triggers include cigarette smoke, dust, aerosols, cold air, long-haired animals (especially cats), seasonal pollens, and exercise (in some).
  • These triggers create a state of inflammation and hyperresponsiveness in the lungs, leading to the excessive production of mucus within the lungs’ various airway branches. If bad enough this will lead to complete obstruction of the airways. In other words you’ll stop breathing, and you will die without assistance and/or reversal.
  • Exacerbation of asthma include breathlessness, chest tightness, coughing, and wheezing. Basically, because you have the functional equivalent of snot in your lungs, your airways are narrowed, and you’re having difficulty breathing. After all, it’s harder to breathe snot than air. Now imagine how your lungs feel when you’re adding cigarette smoke to that mix.

Asthma Symptoms Word Circle Concept with great terms such as coughing wheezing and more.
Let’s get logical. Asthma management is theoretically straightforward if you can pull it off. Prevention is treatment. I used to describe this as “Kill the Cat.” (This blog neither supports, advocates, nor is responsible for the harming of any animals resulting from this information.) In short, if you identify the triggers that precipitate your asthma attacks and then remove yourself from that environment, you will dramatically reduce, if not eliminate, your attacks. This is often described (incorrectly) in kids as “growing out of their asthma.” No one grows out of it, and you don’t cure asthma; asthmatics just stop having attacks because they’re not around the triggers.
In Part II, we discuss asthma management. In case you’re wondering, that’s where the toothpicks come in.

Feel free to ask your SMA expert consultant any questions you may have on this topic.
Take the #72HoursChallenge, and join the community. As a thank you for being a valued subscriber to Straight, No Chaser, we’d like to offer you a complimentary 30-day membership at www.72hourslife.com. Just use the code #NoChaser, and yes, it’s ok if you share!
Order your copy of Dr. Sterling’s new books There are 72 Hours in a Day: Using Efficiency to Better Enjoy Every Part of Your Life and The 72 Hours in a Day Workbook: The Journey to The 72 Hours Life in 72 Days at Amazon or at www.72hourslife.com. Receive introductory pricing with orders!
Thanks for liking and following Straight, No Chaser! This public service provides a sample of what http://www.SterlingMedicalAdvice.com (SMA) and 844-SMA-TALK offers. Please share our page with your friends on WordPress, like us on Facebook SterlingMedicalAdvice.com and follow us on Twitter at @asksterlingmd.
Copyright © 2018 · Sterling Initiatives, LLC · Powered by WordPress

From the SterlingMedicalAdvice.com Health Library: “My Doctor Said I Was a High-Risk Asthmatic. What Does That Mean?”

asthmarisk

If you have an asthmatic in your life, it’s important to know that asthmatics die.  The risk of death is higher in certain asthmatics. If you or your loved one is in this subset of asthmatics, you really must be diligent in avoiding those triggers that cause asthma attacks. You must also be attentive and consistent in taking your ‘controller’ medicines.
These circumstances define a high risk asthmatic:

  • A history of sudden severe asthma attacks
  • Prior need to be intubated (placed on a respiratory aka breathing machine)
  • Prior admission to a hospital ICU (intensive care unit)
  • Greater than one admission or two ER visits in the past year
  • An ER visit within the last month
  • Needing to use two or more inhalers per month
  • Current or recent oral steroid use
  • Illicit drug use
  • Concomitant cardiopulmonary or psychosocial disease

Feel free to ask your SMA expert consultant any questions you may have on this topic.

Take the #72HoursChallenge, and join the community. As a thank you for being a valued subscriber to Straight, No Chaser, we’d like to offer you a complimentary 30-day membership at www.72hourslife.com. Just use the code #NoChaser, and yes, it’s ok if you share!

Order your copy of Dr. Sterling’s new books There are 72 Hours in a Day: Using Efficiency to Better Enjoy Every Part of Your Life and The 72 Hours in a Day Workbook: The Journey to The 72 Hours Life in 72 Days at Amazon or at www.72hourslife.com. Receive introductory pricing with orders!

Thanks for liking and following Straight, No Chaser! This public service provides a sample of what http://www.SterlingMedicalAdvice.com (SMA) and 844-SMA-TALK offers. Please share our page with your friends on WordPress, like us on Facebook SterlingMedicalAdvice.com and follow us on Twitter at @asksterlingmd.

Copyright © 2018 · Sterling Initiatives, LLC · Powered by WordPress

Straight, No Chaser: Understanding Asthma – Toothpicks and Snot (Part 2 of 2)

asthma_treatments_496958

As we move into discussing asthma treatment, remember that asthmatics die at an alarming rate.  I mentioned yesterday (and it bears repeating) that death rates have increased over 50% in the last few decades.  If you’re an asthmatic, avoid taking care of yourself at your own peril.  Your next asthma attack could be your last.
The other thing to remember is that asthma is a reversible disease – until it’s not.  At some point (beginning somewhere around age 35 or so), the ongoing inflammation and damage to the lungs will create some irreversible changes, and then the situation’s completely different, possibly predisposing asthmatics to other conditions such as chronic bronchitis, COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) and lung cancer.  This simply reiterates the importance of identifying and removing those triggers.
Given that, let’s talk about asthma control as treatment.  Consider the following quick tips you might use to help you reduce or virtually eliminate asthma attacks:

asthmatriggers

  • Avoid cigarette smoke (including second hand smoke) like the plague!
  • Avoid long haired animals, especially cats.
  • Avoid shaggy carpets, window treatments or other household fixtures that retain dust.
  • If you’re spraying any kind of aerosol, if it’s allergy season, if you’re handling trash, or if you react to cold weather, wear a mask while you’re doing it.  It’s better to not look cool for a few moments than to have to look at an emergency room for a few hours or a hospital room for a few days.
  • Be careful to avoid colds and the flu.  Get that flu shot yearly.

If and when all of this fails, and you’re actually in the midst of an asthma attack, treatment options primarily center around two types of medications.

AsthmaHispanic

  • Short (and quick) acting bronchodilators (e.g. albuterol, ventolin, proventil, xopenex, alupent, maxair) functionally serve as props (‘toothpicks’, no not real ones, and don’t try to use toothpicks at home) to keep the airways open against the onslaught of mucous buildup inside the lungs combined with other inflammatory changes trying to clog the airways.  These medications do not treat the underlying condition.  They only buy you time and attempt to keep the airways open for…
  • Steroids (e.g. prednisone, prelone, orapred, solumedrol, decadron – none of which are the muscle building kind) are the mainstay of acute asthma treatment, as they combat the inflammatory reaction and other changes that cause the asthma attack.  One can functionally think of steroids as a dump truck moving in to scoop the snot out of the airways.  The only issue with the steroids is they take 2-4 hours to start working, so you have to both get them on board as early as possible while continuing to use the bronchodilators to stem the tide until the steroids kick in.

asthma-inhaler-techniques-15-638
If you are not successful in avoiding those triggers over the long term, you may need to be placed on ‘controller’ medications at home, which include lower doses of long-acting bronchodilators and steroids.
So in summary, the best treatment of asthma is management of its causes.  Avoid the triggers, thus reducing your acute attacks.  Become educated about signs of an attack.  When needed, get help sooner rather than later.  And always keep an inhaler on you.  It could be the difference between life and death.
Feel free to ask your SMA expert consultant any questions you may have on this topic.
Order your copy of Dr. Sterling’s new book Behind The Curtain: A Peek at Life from within the ER at jeffreysterlingbooks.com, iTunes, Amazon, Barnes and Nobles and wherever books are sold.
Thanks for liking and following Straight, No Chaser! This public service provides a sample of what http://www.SterlingMedicalAdvice.com (SMA) and 844-SMA-TALK offers. Please share our page with your friends on WordPress, like us on Facebook SterlingMedicalAdvice.com and follow us on Twitter at @asksterlingmd.
Copyright © 2017 · Sterling Initiatives, LLC · Powered by WordPress
 
 

Straight, No Chaser: Understanding Asthma – Toothpicks and Snot (Part 1 of 2)

asthmaBasics-enHD-AR1

Asthma concerns me. I’ve had many close friends and family suffer with the disease. In fact, a very good friend died of an attack while in medical school, because he didn’t have his inhaler with him. In other words, this is somewhat personal. I’ve probably given more lectures on asthma than any other topic over the years, and I can say without hesitation that relative to how much we know about its prevention and treatment, I can’t think of another disease where we underperform as much as with asthma management. According to data from the National Institutes of Health, over the last few decades the death rate has increased by over 55%. The prevalence rate has increased by 75%, and among African-Americans the hospitalization rate has increased over 35%. The good news is asthma can be controlled and effectively treated. In this primer, we’ll discuss quick tips to improve the health of the asthmatic in your life.
The encouraging thing about asthma is that if you understand what causes it, you understand how to treat it. Here’s what you need to know about what causes asthma. For the purposes of discussion I am simplifying matters for general consumption.
asthma

  • Asthma is a result of certain triggers, causing inflammation to your airways over a long period of time with the occurrence of attacks (intermittent exacerbations). These triggers can be thought of as allergens. Examples of these triggers include cigarette smoke, dust, aerosols, cold air, long-haired animals (especially cats), seasonal pollens, and exercise (in some).
  • These triggers create a state of inflammation and hyperresponsiveness in the lungs, leading to the excessive production of mucus within the lungs’ various airway branches. If bad enough this will lead to complete obstruction of the airways. In other words you’ll stop breathing, and you will die without assistance and/or reversal.
  • Exacerbation of asthma include breathlessness, chest tightness, coughing, and wheezing. Basically, because you have the functional equivalent of snot in your lungs, your airways are narrowed, and you’re having difficulty breathing. After all, it’s harder to breathe snot than air. Now imagine how your lungs feel when you’re adding cigarette smoke to that mix.

Asthma Symptoms Word Circle Concept with great terms such as coughing wheezing and more.
Let’s get logical. Asthma management is theoretically straightforward if you can pull it off. Prevention is treatment. I used to describe this as “Kill the Cat.” (This blog neither supports, advocates, nor is responsible for the harming of any animals resulting from this information.) In short, if you identify the triggers that precipitate your asthma attacks and then remove yourself from that environment, you will dramatically reduce, if not eliminate, your attacks. This is often described (incorrectly) in kids as “growing out of their asthma.” No one grows out of it, and you don’t cure asthma; asthmatics just stop having attacks because they’re not around the triggers.
In Part II, we discuss asthma management. In case you’re wondering, that’s where the toothpicks come in.
Feel free to ask your SMA expert consultant any questions you may have on this topic.
Order your copy of Dr. Sterling’s new book Behind The Curtain: A Peek at Life from within the ER at jeffreysterlingbooks.com, iTunes, Amazon, Barnes and Nobles and wherever books are sold.
Thanks for liking and following Straight, No Chaser! This public service provides a sample of what http://www.SterlingMedicalAdvice.com (SMA) and 844-SMA-TALK offers. Please share our page with your friends on WordPress, like us on Facebook SterlingMedicalAdvice.com and follow us on Twitter at @asksterlingmd.
Copyright © 2017 · Sterling Initiatives, LLC · Powered by WordPress

From the SterlingMedicalAdvice.com Health Library: “My Doctor Said I Was a High-Risk Asthmatic. What Does That Mean?”

asthmarisk

If you have an asthmatic in your life, it’s important to know that asthmatics die.  The risk of death is higher in certain asthmatics. If you or your loved one is in this subset of asthmatics, you really must be diligent in avoiding those triggers that cause asthma attacks. You must also be attentive and consistent in taking your ‘controller’ medicines.
These circumstances define a high risk asthmatic:

  • A history of sudden severe asthma attacks
  • Prior need to be intubated (placed on a respiratory aka breathing machine)
  • Prior admission to a hospital ICU (intensive care unit)
  • Greater than one admission or two ER visits in the past year
  • An ER visit within the last month
  • Needing to use two or more inhalers per month
  • Current or recent oral steroid use
  • Illicit drug use
  • Concomitant cardiopulmonary or psychosocial disease

Feel free to ask your SMA expert consultant any questions you may have on this topic.
Order your copy of Dr. Sterling’s new book Behind The Curtain: A Peek at Life from within the ER at jeffreysterlingbooks.com, iTunes, Amazon, Barnes and Nobles and wherever books are sold.
Thanks for liking and following Straight, No Chaser! This public service provides a sample of what http://www.SterlingMedicalAdvice.com (SMA) and 844-SMA-TALK offers. Please share our page with your friends on WordPress, like us on Facebook SterlingMedicalAdvice.com and follow us on Twitter at @asksterlingmd.
Copyright © 2017 · Sterling Initiatives, LLC · Powered by WordPress

Straight, No Chaser: Understanding Asthma – Toothpicks and Snot (Part 2 of 2)

asthma_treatments_496958

As we move into discussing asthma treatment, remember that asthmatics die at an alarming rate.  I mentioned yesterday (and it bears repeating) that death rates have increased over 50% in the last few decades.  If you’re an asthmatic, avoid taking care of yourself at your own peril.  Your next asthma attack could be your last.
The other thing to remember is that asthma is a reversible disease – until it’s not.  At some point (beginning somewhere around age 35 or so), the ongoing inflammation and damage to the lungs will create some irreversible changes, and then the situation’s completely different, possibly predisposing asthmatics to other conditions such as chronic bronchitis, COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) and lung cancer.  This simply reiterates the importance of identifying and removing those triggers.
Given that, let’s talk about asthma control as treatment.  Consider the following quick tips you might use to help you reduce or virtually eliminate asthma attacks:

asthmatriggers

  • Avoid cigarette smoke (including second hand smoke) like the plague!
  • Avoid long haired animals, especially cats.
  • Avoid shaggy carpets, window treatments or other household fixtures that retain dust.
  • If you’re spraying any kind of aerosol, if it’s allergy season, if you’re handling trash, or if you react to cold weather, wear a mask while you’re doing it.  It’s better to not look cool for a few moments than to have to look at an emergency room for a few hours or a hospital room for a few days.
  • Be careful to avoid colds and the flu.  Get that flu shot yearly.

If and when all of this fails, and you’re actually in the midst of an asthma attack, treatment options primarily center around two types of medications.

AsthmaHispanic

  • Short (and quick) acting bronchodilators (e.g. albuterol, ventolin, proventil, xopenex, alupent, maxair) functionally serve as props (‘toothpicks’, no not real ones, and don’t try to use toothpicks at home) to keep the airways open against the onslaught of mucous buildup inside the lungs combined with other inflammatory changes trying to clog the airways.  These medications do not treat the underlying condition.  They only buy you time and attempt to keep the airways open for…
  • Steroids (e.g. prednisone, prelone, orapred, solumedrol, decadron – none of which are the muscle building kind) are the mainstay of acute asthma treatment, as they combat the inflammatory reaction and other changes that cause the asthma attack.  One can functionally think of steroids as a dump truck moving in to scoop the snot out of the airways.  The only issue with the steroids is they take 2-4 hours to start working, so you have to both get them on board as early as possible while continuing to use the bronchodilators to stem the tide until the steroids kick in.

asthma-inhaler-techniques-15-638
If you are not successful in avoiding those triggers over the long term, you may need to be placed on ‘controller’ medications at home, which include lower doses of long-acting bronchodilators and steroids.
So in summary, the best treatment of asthma is management of its causes.  Avoid the triggers, thus reducing your acute attacks.  Become educated about signs of an attack.  When needed, get help sooner rather than later.  And always keep an inhaler on you.  It could be the difference between life and death.
Feel free to ask your SMA expert consultant any questions you may have on this topic.
Order your copy of Dr. Sterling’s new book Behind The Curtain: A Peek at Life from within the ER at jeffreysterlingbooks.com, iTunes, Amazon, Barnes and Nobles and wherever books are sold.
Thanks for liking and following Straight, No Chaser! This public service provides a sample of what http://www.SterlingMedicalAdvice.com (SMA) and 844-SMA-TALK offers. Please share our page with your friends on WordPress, like us on Facebook SterlingMedicalAdvice.com and follow us on Twitter at @asksterlingmd.
Copyright © 2016 · Sterling Initiatives, LLC · Powered by WordPress
 

From the SterlingMedicalAdvice.com Health Library: “My Doctor Said I Was a High-Risk Asthmatic. What Does That Mean?”

asthmarisk

If you have an asthmatic in your life, it’s important to know that asthmatics die.  The risk of death is higher in certain asthmatics. If you or your loved one is in this subset of asthmatics, you really must be diligent in avoiding those triggers that cause asthma attacks. You must also be attentive and consistent in taking your ‘controller’ medicines.
These circumstances define a high risk asthmatic:

  • A history of sudden severe asthma attacks
  • Prior need to be intubated (placed on a respiratory aka breathing machine)
  • Prior admission to a hospital ICU (intensive care unit)
  • Greater than one admission or two ER visits in the past year
  • An ER visit within the last month
  • Needing to use two or more inhalers per month
  • Current or recent oral steroid use
  • Illicit drug use
  • Concomitant cardiopulmonary or psychosocial disease

Feel free to ask your SMA expert consultant any questions you may have on this topic.
Order your copy of Dr. Sterling’s new book Behind The Curtain: A Peek at Life from within the ER at jeffreysterlingbooks.com, iTunes, Amazon, Barnes and Nobles and wherever books are sold.
Thanks for liking and following Straight, No Chaser! This public service provides a sample of what http://www.SterlingMedicalAdvice.com (SMA) and 844-SMA-TALK offers. Please share our page with your friends on WordPress, like us on Facebook SterlingMedicalAdvice.com and follow us on Twitter at @asksterlingmd.
Copyright © 2016 · Sterling Initiatives, LLC · Powered by WordPress

Straight, No Chaser: Understanding Asthma – Toothpicks and Snot (Part 1 of 2)

 

asthmaBasics-enHD-AR1

Asthma concerns me. I’ve had many close friends and family suffer with the disease. In fact, a very good friend died of an attack while in medical school, because he didn’t have his inhaler with him. In other words, this is somewhat personal. I’ve probably given more lectures on asthma than any other topic over the years, and I can say without hesitation that relative to how much we know about its prevention and treatment, I can’t think of another disease where we underperform as much as with asthma management. According to data from the National Institutes of Health, over the last few decades the death rate has increased by over 55%. The prevalence rate has increased by 75%, and among African-Americans the hospitalization rate has increased over 35%. The good news is asthma can be controlled and effectively treated. In this primer, we’ll discuss quick tips to improve the health of the asthmatic in your life.
The encouraging thing about asthma is that if you understand what causes it, you understand how to treat it. Here’s what you need to know about what causes asthma. For the purposes of discussion I am simplifying matters for general consumption.
asthma

  • Asthma is a result of certain triggers, causing inflammation to your airways over a long period of time with the occurrence of attacks (intermittent exacerbations). These triggers can be thought of as allergens. Examples of these triggers include cigarette smoke, dust, aerosols, cold air, long-haired animals (especially cats), seasonal pollens, and exercise (in some).
  • These triggers create a state of inflammation and hyperresponsiveness in the lungs, leading to the excessive production of mucus within the lungs’ various airway branches. If bad enough this will lead to complete obstruction of the airways. In other words you’ll stop breathing, and you will die without assistance and/or reversal.
  • Exacerbations of asthma include breathlessness, chest tightness, coughing, and wheezing. Basically, because you have the functional equivalent of snot in your lungs, your airways are narrowed, and you’re having difficulty breathing. After all, it’s harder to breathe snot than air. Now imagine how your lungs feel when you’re adding cigarette smoke to that mix.

Asthma Symptoms Word Circle Concept with great terms such as coughing wheezing and more.
Let’s get logical. Asthma management is theoretically straightforward if you can pull it off. Prevention is treatment. I used to describe this as “Kill the Cat.” (This blog neither supports, advocates, nor is responsible for the harming of any animals resulting from this information.) In short, if you identify the triggers that precipitate your asthma attacks and then remove yourself from that environment, you will dramatically reduce, if not eliminate, your attacks. This is often described (incorrectly) in kids as “growing out of their asthma.” No one grows out of it, and you don’t cure asthma; asthmatics just stop having attacks because they’re not around the triggers.
In Part II, we discuss asthma management. In case you’re wondering, that’s where the toothpicks come in.
Feel free to ask your SMA expert consultant any questions you may have on this topic.
Order your copy of Dr. Sterling’s new book Behind The Curtain: A Peek at Life from within the ER at jeffreysterlingbooks.com, iTunes, Amazon, Barnes and Nobles and wherever books are sold.
Thanks for liking and following Straight, No Chaser! This public service provides a sample of what http://www.SterlingMedicalAdvice.com (SMA) and 844-SMA-TALK offers. Please share our page with your friends on WordPress, like us on Facebook SterlingMedicalAdvice.com and follow us on Twitter at @asksterlingmd.
Copyright © 2016 · Sterling Initiatives, LLC · Powered by WordPress

Straight, No Chaser: When the Patient Knows Better

drptnt2

So … your friendly neighborhood ER physician chats with a patient.

Client: “Doc, I’m sick. I need my asthma medicine. I need steroids, an inhaler and some antibiotics.”
Expert: “Oh really. How do you know that?”
Client: “Oh, I get the same thing this time every year.”
Expert: “Hmm. Same time every year, huh? Would you mind telling me your symptoms first?”
Client: “Cough, chest tightness, wheezing. I’m telling you. Same thing every year.”
Expert: “Have you gotten your flu shot this year?”
Client: “I haven’t had the flu shot since 2005, but I’m going to get it in January. But this is my asthma! C’mon, Doc. I just need my antibiotics and my asthma medicine.”
Expert: “There’s an adage in medicine that has been proven true a million times over. A physician that treats himself has a fool for a patient. Now, if physicians won’t treat themselves …”
If I’ve heard it once, I’ve heard it a million times.

  • “I know my body.”
  • “I’ve had the exact thing before.”
  • “I read it on the Internet.”
  • “I had a friend with the same thing.”
  • “I just want to make sure.”
  • “Well you have to do something, don’t you?”

Medicine is a science. By that, I mean a real science made of facts—not opinions, educated guesses or perspectives. There are seemingly a million paraprofessionals and incredibly intelligent people on the periphery of healthcare who have what we describe as an “experience base.” That means they “know” it because they’ve seen it or just read it. That is completely different than a knowledge base. Physicians have completed between seven and 10 years after undergrad learning, understanding and mastering the human body. What does that mean to you? Basically, the methodology for practicing medicine is not the linear A+B=C (i.e., “I have this symptom, therefore it must be this disease”).
Yes, this applies to you. Even you, dear “I know my body better than you do” reader. When you tell your physician that you’ve seen or experienced something before, you’re basically suggesting your sample size of one defines the entire universe of medicine. Even as it applies to you, the body is a wondrously complex creation with many, many variables affecting a single breath or heartbeat.
So, when your physician is telling you something different than what you believe or expect to hear about your condition, it’s not that s/he isn’t listening to you. It’s that s/he has listened to you and has come to a different determination. That’s why physicians have the power to write prescriptions, and you (and even pharmacists) don’t.
Of course, none of this is to say that your input isn’t valuable. It is valuable, and that’s why the physician asks you the questions. This is not even to say that physicians don’t make mistakes. This is to challenge you to allow the conversation to occur. Ask your own questions. Demand an explanation from your caregiver. Insist on being part of the care team and a partner in your treatment plan. Learn what to look for, what you can do at home and what should prompt additional measures. If you are stuck on a course of treatment before the conversation occurs, it is just as pointless as if a physician refuses to listen to your concerns.
Cut your physicians some slack. Many of you get so frustrated and outright angry when you don’t get your way. Physician’s offices and emergency rooms are not grocery stores. It’s not as if docs own the pharmaceutical company or the hospital. They’re just trying to care for you as best they can. As much as physicians love to provide satisfaction to patients, caring for you appropriately is of a higher order. Many of you understand this, and as such physicians continue to have among the highest rating of “trust” among professionals. It’s a privilege to take care of patients. The overwhelming majority of us still understand that fact.
Postscript: It was the flu.
PPS: A little advice from a friendly online SMA expert might have saved her the trip to the ER.
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From the Health Library of SterlingMedicalAdvice.com: "My doctor said I was a high-risk asthmatic. What does that mean?"

asthmarisk

If you have an asthmatic in your life, it’s important to know that asthmatics die.  The risk of death is higher in certain asthmatics. If you or your loved one is in this subset of asthmatics, you really must be diligent in avoiding those triggers that cause asthma attacks. You must also be attentive and consistent in taking your ‘controller’ medicines.
These circumstances define a high risk asthmatic:

  • A history of sudden severe asthma attacks
  • Prior need to be intubated (placed on a respiratory aka breathing machine)
  • Prior admission to a hospital ICU (intensive care unit)
  • Greater than one admission or two ER visits in the past year
  • An ER visit within the last month
  • Needing to use two or more inhalers per month
  • Current or recent oral steroid use
  • Illicit drug use
  • Concomitant cardiopulmonary or psychosocial disease

For more on asthma from Straight, No Chaser, click here and here.

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Straight, No Chaser: Understanding Asthma – Toothpicks and Snot (Part 1 of 2)

asthma
Asthma concerns me. I’ve had many close friends and family suffer with the disease. In fact, a very good friend died of an attack while in medical school, because he didn’t have his inhaler with him. In other words, this is somewhat personal. I’ve probably given more lectures on asthma than any other topic over the years, and I can say without hesitation that relative to how much we know about its prevention and treatment, I can’t think of another disease where we underperform as much as with asthma management. According to data from the National Institutes of Health, over the last few decades the death rate has increased by over 55%. The prevalence rate has increased by 75%, and among African-Americans the hospitalization rate has increased over 35%. The good news is asthma can be controlled and effectively treated. In this primer, we’ll discuss quick tips to improve the health of the asthmatic in your life.
The encouraging thing about asthma is that if you understand what causes it, you understand how to treat it. Here’s what you need to know about what causes asthma. For the purposes of discussion I am simplifying matters for general consumption.

  • Asthma is a result of certain triggers, causing inflammation to your airways over a long period of time with the occurrence of attacks (intermittent exacerbations). These triggers can be thought of as allergens. Examples of these triggers include cigarette smoke, dust, aerosols, cold air, long-haired animals (especially cats), seasonal pollens, and exercise (in some).
  • These triggers create a state of inflammation and hyperresponsiveness in the lungs, leading to the excessive production of mucus within the lungs’ various airway branches. If bad enough this will lead to complete obstruction of the airways. In other words you’ll stop breathing, and you will die without assistance and/or reversal.
  • Exacerbations of asthma include breathlessness, chest tightness, coughing, and wheezing. Basically, because you have the functional equivalent of snot in your lungs, your airways are narrowed, and you’re having difficulty breathing. After all, it’s harder to breathe snot than air. Now imagine how your lungs feel when you’re adding cigarette smoke to that mix.

Let’s get logical. Asthma management is theoretically straightforward if you can pull it off. Prevention is treatment. I used to describe this as “Kill the Cat.” (This blog neither supports, advocates, nor is responsible for the harming of any animals resulting from this information.) In short, if you identify the triggers that precipitate your asthma attacks and then remove yourself from that environment, you will dramatically reduce, if not eliminate, your attacks. This is often described (incorrectly) in kids as “growing out of their asthma.” No one grows out of it, and you don’t cure asthma; asthmatics just stop having attacks because they’re not around the triggers.
In Part II, we discuss asthma management. In case you’re wondering, that’s where the toothpicks come in.
Thanks for liking and following Straight, No Chaser! This public service provides a sample of what http://www.SterlingMedicalAdvice.com (SMA) will offer beginning November 1. Until then enjoy some our favorite posts and frequently asked questions as well as a daily note explaining the benefits of SMA membership. Please share our page with your Friends on WordPress, and we can be found on Facebook at SterlingMedicalAdvice.com and on Twitter at @asksterlingmd.
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Straight, No Chaser: Understanding Asthma – Toothpicks and Snot (Part 2 of 2)

As we move into discussing asthma treatment, remember that asthmatics die at an alarming rate.  I mentioned yesterday (and it bears repeating) that death rates have increased over 50% in the last few decades.  If you’re an asthmatic, avoid taking care of yourself at your own peril.  Your next asthma attack could be your last.
The other thing to remember is that asthma is a reversible disease – until it’s not.  At some point (beginning somewhere around age 35 or so), the ongoing inflammation and damage to the lungs will create some irreversible changes, and then the situation’s completely different, possibly predisposing asthmatics to other conditions such as chronic bronchitis, COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) and lung cancer.  This simply reiterates the importance of identifying and removing those triggers.
Given that, let’s talk about asthma control as treatment.  Consider the following quick tips you might use to help you reduce or virtually eliminate asthma attacks:

  • Avoid cigarette smoke (including second hand smoke) like the plague!
  • Avoid long haired animals, especially cats.
  • Avoid shaggy carpets, window treatments or other household fixtures that retain dust.
  • If you’re spraying any kind of aerosol, if it’s allergy season, if you’re handling trash, or if you react to cold weather, wear a mask while you’re doing it.  It’s better to not look cool for a few moments than to have to look at an emergency room for a few hours or a hospital room for a few days.
  • Be careful to avoid colds and the flu.  Get that flu shot yearly.

If and when all of this fails, and you’re actually in the midst of an asthma attack, treatment options primarily center around two types of medications.

  • Short (and quick) acting bronchodilators (e.g. albuterol, ventolin, proventil, xopenex, alupent, maxair) functionally serve as props (‘toothpicks’, no not real ones, and don’t try to use toothpicks at home) to keep the airways open against the onslaught of mucous buildup inside the lungs combined with other inflammatory changes trying to clog the airways.  These medications do not treat the underlying condition.  They only buy you time and attempt to keep the airways open for…
  • Steroids (e.g. prednisone, prelone, orapred, solumedrol, decadron – none of which are the muscle building kind) are the mainstay of acute asthma treatment, as they combat the inflammatory reaction and other changes that cause the asthma attack.  One can functionally think of steroids as a dump truck moving in to scoop the snot out of the airways.  The only issue with the steroids is they take 2-4 hours to start working, so you have to both get them on board as early as possible while continuing to use the bronchodilators to stem the tide until the steroids kick in.

If you are not successful in avoiding those triggers over the long term, you may need to be placed on ‘controller’ medications at home, which include lower doses of long-acting bronchodilators and steroids.
So in summary, the best treatment of asthma is management of its causes.  Avoid the triggers, thus reducing your acute attacks.  Become educated about signs of an attack.  When needed, get help sooner rather than later.  And always keep an inhaler on you.  It could be the difference between life and death.
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