Based on the intensity of the symptoms, asthma is classified as one of the following:
■ Mild intermittent asthma. People with this condition experience symptoms less than twice a week, with no more than two nocturnal awakenings per month, meaning that they are awakened from sleep because of difficulty breathing. Typically, those in this category develop symptoms when being exposed to a triggering factor such as allergens or pollutants. Others develop their symptoms when they have been exposed to an upper-respiratory infection or during strenuous physical exercise, more commonly called exercise-induced asthma.
■ Mild persistent asthma. People with this condition experience symptoms more than twice a week with more than two nighttime awakenings per month.
■ Moderate persistent asthma. This description is given to people who have daily symptoms, with exacerbations that affect the quality of life at least once a week, meaning that not only do they need to take their medication daily, they are also debilitated by the disease. If not treated properly, this group is at high risk to suffer long-term, irreversible damage to the lungs.
■ Acute exacerbations of acute asthma. Acute asthma refers to the actual sudden attack. During an acute attack, patients will feel the following symptoms: the inability to lie down owing severe shortness of breath, the use of multiple groups of muscles to ease breathing, cold sweats, and anxiety. During an acute attack, it is common to see a period of mild improvement followed by rapid deterioration. If you or someone you know is experiencing these symptoms, go immediately to the nearest emergency room to seek treatment. Because of the major risks of complications, it
is common to remain in the hospital for observation and treatment until steady improvement is noted.