There is no doubt in my mind that good hydration can have very positive effects for those with asthma. One of the hallmarks of asthma is mucous production that clogs the airways. What is the best known mucolytic agent, something that breaks down mucous? The answer is easy — water. At the first sign of wheezing, I tell my patients to drink an eight-ounce glass of water mixed with ¼ teaspoon of unrefined salt.
This combination of water and salt helps break down mucous and relax the airways. Water helps break down and thin the mucous of the airways. Salt (and only unrefined salt) contains minerals such as magnesium that are very relaxing to the smooth muscles of the airways. When I start wheezing the first thing I do is reach for the water-salt combination. I have found that, if I ingest this combination early, I often overcome the wheezing.
It is very important, too, to be hydrated before participating in sporting events. Many people with asthma experience wheezing with exertion. My patients have had success drinking the saltwater mixture before beginning an exercise regimen. Those who have to use an inhaler before exercise often find they don’t need to use their inhaler as long as they maintain good hydration. I play tennis every week and drinking the saltwater mixture has removed my need for using an inhaler before I play. In fact, I don’t even carry an inhaler with me.
Jay is a 12-year-old soccer player. His mother started to notice that he was having trouble keeping up during games. When she asked him what was wrong, he told her his chest felt heavy. Jay went to an allergist, who performed a pulmonary function test that diagnosed Jay with asthma. He was prescribed a combination of inhalers and medications to help control the symptoms. When Jay used the inhalers they caused his heart rate to increase.
When I saw Jay, I asked him how much water he drank, and he replied, “I don’t like water. Maybe I drink one glass per day.”
I told Jay that he would not get better unless drank more water. Since Jay was interested in soccer, he agreed to try to drink more water. I had him drink half his body weight (in ounces) of water per day and put ¼ teaspoon of unrefined salt in the bottle of water he took to soccer practice.
The first day, Jay felt the difference. “My chest did not hurt and I felt like I could run all day,” he said. Jay now uses a rescue inhaler infrequently and is doing well.Children are notoriously dehydrated. They drink too much soda and juices and not enough water. I encourage all of my pediatric patients to drink water as their primary source of liquids.
Soda and juices dehydrate the body, and drinking them can promote asthma symptoms in those predisposed to it.
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