Seniors at Risk for Asthma Attacks

By May 9, 2014Healthy Aging

Asthma is a disease that damages the airways. When present, the body experiences difficulties carrying essential oxygen to and from the lungs. Seniors who experience the chronic form of this disorder are called asthmatic.

If you could look down into an asthmatic senior’s airway, you would notice tissues that are swollen and red. During this time, the airway is hyper sensitive in the presence of any irritant. It also increases the chances of an allergic reaction.

As a senior’s airway continues to swell, less and less oxygen can squeeze through. With an asthmatic senior, the caregiver should be on the lookout for symptoms like an audible wheezing upon inspiration and exhalation. Your senior loved one may also complain of tightness in the chest, a feeling of crushing chest pressure, extremely labored breathing patterns and chronic coughing. Seniors usually experience these symptoms at night and upon waking in the morning.

Studying Asthma Among Seniors
Thousands of older adults suffer from moderate to severe asthma. According to a recent study conducted at Johns Hopkins University, these conditions are commonly undiagnosed or inadequately treated by a medical professional. Researchers also found that seniors are more likely to experience a marked decrease in quality of life as a result of asthma.

For the study, researchers gathered 80 seniors over the age of 65. They discovered two thirds of the group had moderate to severe chronic asthma caused by irritants in the home. The most common household irritants are dust mites, mold and allergens from pets or cockroaches. Among the seniors with asthma, researchers also found that they were either not using the prescribed medications or using the medications improperly.

Results of Study
In the Johns Hopkins study, researchers found that 75 percent of the group tested positive for airborne allergens. Another 53 percent tested positive to at least one household allergen. Of all the potential allergens, seniors were found to be primarily sensitive to indoor irritants. Additionally, allergen levels in their home environments often reached such high levels that the seniors were highly susceptible to asthma-related complications.

Essential Caregiver Info
For senior caregivers looking to decrease asthma attacks, the first thing to do is identify allergens within the home. Physicians will also perform a skin test on your senior loved one, helping to narrow down the allergens that cause sensitivity. Medications that counteract the swelling in airways will also be prescribed. After decreasing the amount of household allergens present and taking asthma medications as prescribed, your senior loved one will likely experience a decrease in asthma attacks and an increase in quality of life.

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