The treatment of asthma involves two basic steps: reducing the swelling of the bronchioles and encouraging the bronchiolar tissue to be less sensitive. The first of these is of immediate concern, while the second is more of a long-term problem. Asthma treatment is complicated by the fact that much of the responsibility for the actual treatment falls upon the patient. After all, asthma can be triggered any time, and it is not possible to have a physician always available. The situation is further complicated by the large number of asthma patients who are children. One study of inner city children (Eggieston, 1998) indicated that more than 50% of children over the age of nine are completely responsible for their own treatment. And many of these children (35%) use only an over-the-counter medicine.
Each patient needs to be able to carry and use a peak flow meter. This small pocket device can be used to set a base-line peak flow. Whenever there is a suspicion of an on-coming attack, the peak flow meter can confirm bronchiolar constriction before there are obvious symptoms. If there is constriction, treatment can be initiated at a very early point thus limiting the severity of the attack.
Each asthmatic needs to be evaluated for a treatment regimen. No two people are exactly alike. Some patients need only to carry an inhaler and use it when needed. Others may need up to six medicines each day. This is a complicated situation which needs to be resolved by an expert. This paper deliberately lacks a significant discussion of the medical treatment of asthma. Asthma is a serious, life-threatening condition which needs proper professional medical attention and supervision. It is not a time for home treatment. Despite the seriousness of asthma, there are a large number of web sites promising relief (e.g. AsthmaMan, 1999). But there are also a number of procedures that may be accomplished at home to lessen the number and severity of asthma attacks.