What Is The Difference Between Reactive Airway Disease and Asthma?

With increasing pollution and environmental issues, airway diseases are highly prevalent in the world today.

If you are suffering from respiratory conditions, it is highly possible that you have come across the terms reactive airway disease and asthma.

Although both these terms are many times used interchangeably, these are not the same.

In many cases the symptoms and signs might be similar to each other. It is therefore highly possible that you might get confused between these two diseases.

But as there is huge difference between these two terms, which must be clear to you, let’s discuss the difference between reactive airway disease and asthma in detail along with its possible treatment options.

AsthmaWhat Is Asthma?

Asthma is basically the leading cause of hospitalization for millions of people including small children.

It is one among the several common respiratory disorders where the bronchial tubes become inflamed due to various causes.

The most common of all causes is allergy in which the inflamed bronchial tubes start producing mucus which leads to problems such as cough and phlegm.

This heavy mucus plugs along with recurrent cough causing weakness of the muscles which governs the respiratory system, particularly the bronchial tubes.

The long standing weakness of the bronchial muscles results in constant dilatation of the bronchial tube and due to this the person feels difficulty in breathing particularly during the exhalation phase.

Asthma is a disease which depends upon various environmental factors such as exposure to allergens which includes dust, pollen, smoke, pet waste and many more. It may also be due to perinatal factors which includes poor maternal nutrition, prematurity, etc.

What Is Reactive Airway Disease?

Reactive airway disease or RAD is a term used for describing all the conditions related to reversible narrowing of the airways which causes breathing issues.

Reactive airway disease is generally not a term used for a single diagnosed disease, rather it is used as general term, until a more specific diagnosis can be made.

The term can be differently used for conditions such as severe wheezing or even asthma and is generally dependent on the person who is diagnosing the condition of the patient.

Knowing all this about RAD, the disease may sound to be concerning for you. But worry not, the term is not at all used to worry or confuse you.

In fact it is used to describe an emergency condition where the breathing restriction is found to be severe and the exact condition is not yet diagnosed.

For instance, if you or your child is experiencing chest pain, recurrent cough, tightness of chest, breathing problem, etc. you or your child may have one or more forms of reactive airway disease which may or may not be asthma.

It is just your doctor uses the term RAD to describe the condition (without knowing exactly what it is) as you or your child is reacting to the condition which is causing you the breathing issues.

It may be possible that the condition may last for more than six months, and then it may be called as asthma when it is diagnosed properly.

At the end, as the exact definition of reactive airway disease is not available, it is the general term used for conditions like allergic reactions, coughing, breathing infections, etc.

All these problems which are more common in children up to 5 years old and cannot be diagnosed properly (mostly due to their childhood age) are grouped under a name “reactive airway disease”.

Reactive Airway Disease Vs Asthma

What Is The Difference?

Although asthma and reactive airway disease are the serious conditions in which the airways in the lungs overreact to certain things, there is a huge difference between both.

While the patients suffering from asthma shows certain specific signs and symptoms that are properly diagnosed, patient suffering from RAD does not.

Person suffering from reactive airway disease usually suffer from bronchial spasm and constriction when exposed to allergens such as pollen, smoke or food.

Whereas a person suffering from asthma can suffer from chronic conditions due to many other reasons like exercise, season change, strong emotions, etc.

The term reactive airway disease or reactive airway dysfunction syndrome (RADS) is more often used in pediatrics for describing an asthma like syndrome in toddlers or infants, who are too young for getting diagnostic testing.

RAD or reactive airway diseases can be caused by the combination of biological, genetic and of course the environmental factors.

The condition overall may include many types of disorders (including asthma) and requires further investigation to confirm the exact condition and hence treatment.

It is usually short term and acute (rather than long term and chronic as in case of asthma).

[Also Read: Difference between Atopic and Non-Atopic Asthma]

Can Reactive Airway Disease Be Reversed?

It is glad to note that initial respiratory problems referred to as reactive airways disease can easily be reversed or cured with early treatment methods.

However regular episodes of reactive airways disease (when not treated on time) can damage the tissues of your lungs leading to chronic problems like asthma which is generally degenerative and irreversible.

Reactive Airway Disease Natural Treatment

Depending on the causes, the symptoms of reactive airway disease in adults or toddlers (which include wheezing, shortness of breath, and cough) can be mild or fatal.

So you should consult your doctor as soon as you notice the symptoms to get the best treatment according to the condition.

However it is important to know that an individual suffering from reactive airway disease does not usually respond to same treatment that treats asthma.

Eating healthy food, avoiding air pollutants and avoid smoking are few easy ways by which you can cure your reactive airway disease naturally.

Reactive airway disease in adults after cold is more common and hence by not going outdoors in extreme cold weather can also help manage your problem significantly.

Although there is no specific treatment guideline available to treat the problem completely, in an emergency condition the very first treatment for reactive airway disease may include: oxygen therapy, pulse oximetry, monitoring of cardiac and respiratory functions, bronchodilators and epinephrine injections.

The most important thing to remember is – if you are diagnosed with reactive airway disease, you must identify your triggers so that you can avoid them to prevent the potential symptoms.