Family Health: When Asthma Attacks You

SouthCrest physician talks about asthma and how you can manage during the upcoming seasons

We have all seen or know someone who has had an asthma attack at some point in our lifetime. A person begins to cough, wheeze and then becomes unable to breathe. It can be a very dangerous and scary situation. More than 22 million Americans suffer from asthma. It is also the cause of almost 2 million emergency room visits per year.

What is asthma?

Asthma is a disease of the airways making it very difficult to breathe. There is inflammation of the air passages which causes temporary narrowing of the airways. In turn, breathing difficulty also causes wheezing, coughing and sometimes tightening of the chest.

Signs and Symptoms

“Signs and symptoms of asthma can vary from person to person as well as episode to episode,” Dr. Jim Harjo, a board certified family physician at SouthCrest Hospital, said.

Some signs to look for that may indicate asthma are:

  • Frequent coughing during physical activity including something as simple as laughing.
  • Increased speed in breathing.
  • Quick loss of energy during physical activity.
  • Tightness or discomfort in the chest.
  • A whistling sound, also known as wheezing, when breathing in or out.
  • Shortness or loss of breath.

“Not everyone experiences all of the mentioned symptoms,” Dr. Harjo said. “Since signs and symptoms can vary, it is important to pay attention to your body and see your medical professional if you think you might have asthma.”

Since people with asthma have very sensitive airways, it is also important to pay attention to your surroundings. Certain elements can trigger asthma symptoms which can lead to an asthma attack. Some of these triggers are:

  • Sinus infections and colds.
  • Pollen, dust, pet dander and other common allergens.
  • Strong odors such as perfumes.
  • Cigarette and cigar smoke.
  • Exercise and other sport activities.
  • Change of weather.
  • Anxiety or stress or even laughter.

Determining triggers that affect you can be achieved by a simple allergy test administered in your healthcare professional’s office. It is important to identify allergens that might trigger your asthma symptoms to help develop the best treatment for you and your situation.


“The first step in asthma treatment is determining if you even have asthma,” Dr. Harjo said. “Once that is diagnosed, you and your healthcare professional can develop a plan for short-term relief as well as a long-term plan to manage your asthma.”

There are several types of medication to help control asthma that will allow you the active lifestyle you desire. Some types of medications your healthcare professional may discuss with you are steroids, anti-inflammatory drugs, bronchodilators such as inhalers, and Prednisone. Asthma is very common, yet can be very serious. That is why it is important to seek proper treatment.

Dr. Harjo is board-certified in Family Medicine. He received his B.S. degree in Biology with a minor in Chemistry from the University of Tulsa and obtained a Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine from Oklahoma State University College of Osteopathic Medicine in Tulsa. Dr. Harjo trained in Tulsa at the In His Image Family Practice Residency and is currently adjunct clinical faculty for the OSU College of Osteopathic Medicine. Dr. Harjo is an active member of the Oklahoma Osteopathic Association, American Academy of Family Practice and the American Osteopathic Association

Categories: Health