Get News & Updates Directly To Your Inbox
Delicious recipes, helpful cooking and nutrition tips. Find food preparation videos and "ask the dietitian!"
Find A Doctor Or Hospital In Your Network.
It took centuries – the late 19th century, to be exact – for doctor and asthma sufferer, Henry Hyde Salter, to explain the disease. Salter noted that “airways narrow due to contraction of their smooth muscle” during an asthma attack. What did he recommend to ease asthma symptoms? Black coffee.
Advances in medicine eventually led to better understanding of asthma’s causes and treatments. In the 1890s, people connected the dots between asthma and polluted city air. Sufferers often left the urban areas and trekked to the seaside, mountains and countryside for relief.
Later, pollen was tagged as a trigger for modern-day allergy sufferers. Air conditioning and sealed, energy-efficient buildings brought greater exposure to dust mites, mold, tobacco smoke and other allergens.
How was asthma first treated?
Imagine having asthma and being told your symptoms and attacks were all in your head. In the early 20th century, asthma was seen as a psychosomatic disease, not a medical condition. Psychoanalysis and other “talking cures” were common treatments through the 1950s. At the time, experts thought asthma sufferers should even be treated for depression.
A breakthrough came in the 1960s when asthma was finally recognized as a physical condition. Experts declared it an inflammatory disease. New, anti-inflammatory medications started to be used to treat it.
Today, medication plays a key role in treating asthma. There are two main types of asthma medication – anti-inflammatories and bronchodilators. Many people with asthma take both types.
Another big discovery!
Now we know genetics also plays a role in asthma. Doctors began to see that asthma runs in families. Recent studies confirm asthma goes beyond health habits and living spaces. A number of genes linked to asthma have been identified. Even so, researchers believe environment is still a big factor.
Experts believe babies exposed to irritants such as dust mites and secondhand smoke have a higher risk for asthma. Studies also show that when babies born with “asthma genes” are exposed to these irritants early, it can lead to a worse case of the disease.
The most recent research shows just how complex asthma is. Many experts now consider asthma as a collection of several problems that share the same symptoms. It’s not just one condition.
Studying genetic links, environmental factors, new technologies and research are all helping in the discovery of better and more effective treatments. Because asthma is a syndrome, not just a disease, it may be that the best way to treat it is with multiple types of therapies.
To learn more about asthma and the “Taking on Asthma” initiative, visit our website.
Originally published 6/6/2016; Revised 2018, 2021
A Division of Health Care Service Corporation, a Mutual Legal Reserve Company, an Independent Licensee of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association© Copyright 2021 Health Care Service Corporation. All Rights Reserved.
Telligent is an operating division of Verint Americas, Inc., an independent company that provides and hosts an online community platform for blogging and access to social media for Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Montana.
File is in portable document format (PDF). To view this file, you may need to install a PDF reader program. Most PDF readers are a free download. One option is Adobe® Reader® which has a built-in screen reader. Other Adobe accessibility tools and information can be downloaded at http://access.adobe.com.