Asthma is a disease that targets the lungs and causes breathlessness, coughing, wheezing, and chest tightness. Whilst most common in children, adults can also develop the disease.
Asthma may create more challenges for older adults, especially as natural aging occurs. For example:
- Asthma symptoms like coughing and breathlessness may become harder to control
- An asthma attack may last longer and affect the recovery period of colds and flu
- Side effects from asthma medication that cause side effects can become stronger
Late-onset asthma – the diagnosis of asthma later in an individual’s life – can be triggered via a viral infection. This diagnosis usually occurs more predominantly in women. The symptoms of late-onset asthma can be more difficult to control with typical asthma medicines, and healthcare should be sought as soon as possible.
Here are 5 ways to manage asthma in older adults:
Regular asthma reviews
Whether you were diagnosed with asthma as a child or at a later stage in life, asthma reviews with your general practitioner are important for managing your symptoms. You can take the opportunity to come up with an asthma action plan, evaluate your present asthma medication and confirm with your GP that you are taking the lowest dosage possible to manage your symptoms.
Tracking your Asthma Symptoms
Keeping track of the asthma symptoms you have will allow you to notice any changes. Jot down worsening symptoms or any triggers you come across onto something portable – in a notebook, or on your smartphone – so that you can bring it along to your next asthma review appointment.
It is important not to ignore symptoms, however mild they may seem. If you start feeling more breathless than usual whilst climbing the stairs, be sure to bring it up with your GP. This will ensure that your asthma can remain controlled as much as possible.
Enquire about Medication Side Effects
Side effects from asthma medicines, such as palpitations or feeling shaky after using your asthma inhaler, may get worse the older you get.
Inhaling high amounts of steroids from inhalers can potentially increase the risk of developing osteoporosis and cataracts, and even result in thinner skin that becomes bruised easily.
Seek Help for Other Medical Conditions
It is not uncommon to have more than one long-term ailment to keep in check as you grow older.
The symptoms of some of these conditions may even overlap. For example, many asthma symptoms are similar to those of COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease), such as emphysema and chronic bronchitis. Other conditions like acid reflux and obstructive sleep apnoea may also aggravate asthma symptoms.
As side effects for treating these other ailments may cause asthma symptoms to worsen, we encourage you to talk to your GP to better manage them.
Prevent Colds and Flus
Colds and flu are notorious for exacerbating asthma due to their similar symptoms. To combat this, approach your GP for a yearly flu vaccine to protect against pneumonia. In addition, regularly wash your hands and avoid people who display cold/flu symptoms to ensure you do not get infected. This should lower your chances of getting a cold or any other respiratory infection.