Is It Just Asthma or Something More Serious? | California Senior Care Tips

California Senior CareChronic coughing. Shortness of breath. Wheezing. Sound like an asthma attack? Instead of reaching for the inhaler or an over-the-counter cough drop, however, perhaps it’s time to see if another culprit – COPD – might be coming into play. With a full 12 million people in the U.S. currently living with COPD (and just as many who probably have the disease but haven’t been diagnosed), it’s crucial for seniors with COPD-like symptoms to determine the cause behind the cough.

Some of the major differences between these two conditions include:


  • 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.


  • 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.

Although medication choices for both conditions are often similar – bronchodilators or inhaled steroids – treatment plans vary between the two. Asthma patients are urged to keep away from known triggers, i.e., by staying inside when the pollen count is high and steering clear of secondhand smoke. COPD treatment requires a more intense therapeutic approach, often including prescribed oxygen, pulmonary rehabilitation to maximize breathing capacity, and, most importantly, making sure not to smoke.

Naturally, it’s critical to schedule an appointment with 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 results in permanent, irreversible damage to the lungs, but when treated, the progression of the disease can be slowed down, its symptoms made more manageable, and quality of life enhanced.

Hillendale’s California senior care team is also here to offer the assistance at home that can help make a chronic condition much 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 learn more about COPD care and how to help your senior loved one remain safe and healthy at home, contact Hillendale Home Care’s California senior care experts at 925-933-8181.