Reactive Airway Disease (RAD) is a health condition or malfunction in the lungs where the air passage or bronchi overly reacts to external stimuli and many other triggers found in the environment. Though it is commonly experienced by children, Reactive Airway Disease can occur in adults too. Due to its signs and symptoms, which include wheezing, continued coughing, and shortness of breath, RAD may be confused as asthma by those who experience it and at times even doctors will mistake reactive airway disease for asthma.
In contrast to asthma, Reactive Airway Disease is not a specific health concern or diagnosis, rather, it is a general term used to describe prolonged history of coughing, wheezing, or shortness of breath triggered by irritants, especially when the triggers are still unknown.
Describing Reactive Airway Disease
RAD can be described in simple terms: outside stimuli, irritants, and all other factors that cause muscles on the walls of the bronchial air passages to swell, constricting the normal air flow in the process.
For those who are not medically adept, the air we breathe from the outside goes to the lungs via the trachea, down to the bronchial tubes, and finally to the alveoli for body processing and use. The bronchial tubes have inner layers of muscle serving as wall and this is where the mucus membrane is also located. We all have learned that mucus is one of the air-filtering mechanisms of the body. During the air filtering process, the bronchi and the mucus membrane may excessively react to certain irritants and stimuli, hence, the condition Reactive Airway Disease.
Internally, the Reactive Airway Disease is a condition where the internal bronchi muscles contract, spasm, and tighten. As a result, the mucus membrane swells and reacts by producing above the normal mucus amounts.
Reactive Airway Disease Causes and Triggering Factors
Generally, the human body can withstand or tolerate almost numerous types of external irritants and stimuli, but when the lungs are overexposed to one irritant or another, that’s a different story. This over exposure to certain elements might become a triggering factor for Reactive Airway Disease. In most cases of Reactive Airway Disease, triggering factors are not just limited to one, but a combination of two or more irritants.
The doctor will be the one to determine which irritants may have caused the patient’s condition, but the most common factors that trigger RAD include: smoke from pollution, wood and other material burning, cigarette, dust, mildew and molds, exposure to sudden weather changes, potential irritants from plants, trees, and flowers like pollen, strong scented perfumes and other odors, pet fur, and excessive physical activities and stress. Due to many patients coming into contact with these substances and stimuli in the workplace, Reactive Airway Disease is often referenced as “occupational asthma” by many medical specialists.
Gauging the Common Signs and Symptoms of RAD
Though prevention is better than cure, there are instances when a medical condition like Reactive Airway Disease surfaces without warning. In such case, it is always better to observe and take note of the condition’s signs and symptoms as early as possible.
Generally, patients exhibit shortness or abnormal patterns of breathing along with the deep “sucking in” or wheezing as the patient tries to breathe deeply. At times, retractions occur (you can mirror the outlines of the ribs) while the patient inhales. Other symptoms includes, prolonged coughs, dry coughs, irritability, pale skin, sweating, shoulders that are hunched over and a glassy eyes.
Treatment of Reactive Airway Disease
Reactive Airway Disease is generally not a life threatening disease; therefore, family members should always stay calm and be alert. Since it is mainly caused by irritants or stimuli, it would be helpful if these causes can be removed or the patient be situated in another location away from such materials. Depending on the diagnosis of the doctor, he may recommend certain medications to alleviate the complications and symptoms like Beta-2 adrenergic agonist agents, magnesium salts, oxygen therapy, or hydration with isotonic fluids.