Coughing that just won’t go away. Shortness of breath. Wheezing. Sounds like an asthma attack, right? Before reaching for the inhaler or those over-the-counter cough drops, however, it might be time to consider if another culprit – COPD – could be a factor. With as many as 12,000 million Americans currently living with COPD (and just as many who likely have the disease but are undiagnosed), it’s important to determine the real cause behind the cough.

Take a look at some of the major differences between these two conditions:

Asthma:

  • Environmental factors such as cigarette smoke, dust, and pet hair can trigger asthmatic symptoms like coughing and shortness of breath.
  • Usually displays in patients in childhood, often by age 5.
  • Thought to be caused by genetics.

COPD:

  • Environmental triggers can exacerbate symptoms like coughing and difficulty breathing, but these symptoms are often present in a milder form regardless of air quality.
  • Typically diagnosed after age 40.
  • Caused mainly by cigarette smoking (in up to 90% of all patients), or by secondhand exposure to air pollutants.

While medication options for both conditions are often similar – bronchodilators or inhaled steroids – treatment plans differ between the two. Asthma patients are urged to avoid known triggers, such as staying indoors when the pollen count is high and avoiding secondhand smoke. Those with COPD face a more intense therapeutic approach, often including prescribed oxygen, pulmonary rehabilitation to maximize breathing capacity, and, most importantly, stopping smoking.

Of course, it’s crucial to see the doctor if you’re concerned that your senior loved one is struggling with any lung condition. Although there’s currently no cure for either asthma or COPD, both conditions are better controlled when properly diagnosed and treated.

COPD causes permanent, irreversible damage to the lungs, but with treatment, the progression of the disease can be slowed down, its symptoms made more manageable, and quality of life maximized.

Lifematters is also available to provide home care assistance to help make a chronic condition easier to manage. Some of the many ways we can help include:

  • Light housework, to ensure as much dust as possible is removed from the home
  • Transportation and accompaniment to medical appointments and to pick up prescriptions
  • Encouragement and participation in physician-approved exercise programs
  • Planning and preparation of nutritious, delicious meals
  • Friendly, compassionate companionship
  • And much more

To help your senior loved one remain safe and healthy at home, contact Lifematters’ home care experts at 301-652-7212.