Asthma in Older Adults
You can get asthma as an older adult even if you’ve never had it before. These are the special concerns of asthma in older adults:
It may be more difficult to diagnose.
It can be hard to tell asthma from other conditions that are more common in older adults. For instance, wheezing can occur in asthma and heart failure. And a long-term cough can occur in asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Both heart failure and COPD are more common as people get older.
It’s important to know for sure that you have asthma. That’s because the treatment of asthma and these other diseases is very different.
If you have any of the following symptoms, see your health care provider. Your provider will ask you a lot of questions, do a physical exam, and probably order some tests. These can be symptoms of asthma:
Coughing, especially at night
Shortness of breath
Breathing faster than normal
Getting out of breath easily
Feeling tired or weak
The symptoms above may also be from other lung problems, heart problems, or infections. They can also be symptoms of many other conditions.
Here are common ways that asthma is treated.
Avoid asthma triggers
One of the most important parts of treatment is staying away from the things that cause your asthma symptoms. Examples of these are:
Allergens like pollen and dust
Irritants like cigarette smoke from smoking or from secondhand smoke and air pollution. Smokers should think about quitting.
You may need to take oral or inhaled medicines.
Staying away from triggers and taking medications as you are told are part of self-care for asthma. So is carefully watching for symptoms that get worse. You need to know what to do to stop symptoms from getting worse.
Overall good health
Get about 8 hours of sleep each night. Exercise or be active about 30 minutes on most days, stay engaged with family and friends, and keep up-to-date on recommended vaccinations. Eat healthy. That means:
Lots of fruits and vegetables
100% whole grains
Lean meats and fish
Low-fat milk, cheeses, and other dairy products
Limited alcohol use
Your healthcare provider may recommend that you see other healthcare providers. For example, you may need to see an allergist or lung specialist (pulmonologist).
March 21, 2017
Blaivas, Allen J., DO,Fraser, Marianne, MSN, RN