Asthma is a state in which your airways narrow and swells and produce extra mucus. It makes breathing difficult and also can make certain physical activities impossible.
For some people, asthma is a minor nuisance. For others, it can be a big concern that interferes with everyday activities and may lead to a life-threatening asthma attack.
Asthma cannot be healed, but asthma’s signs may be controlled. Because asthma often changes over time, it is important to work with your doctor to monitor your signs and modify treatment as per need.
Symptoms of asthma differ according to the person. You can have irregular asthma attacks, symptoms only at certain times such as all the time while you are exercising or have symptoms.
Symptoms of asthma include:
- Shortness of breath
- Tightness of the chest or pain
- Sleeping problems caused by shortness of breath, coughing or wheezing
- A whistling or wheezing sound when exhaling
- Coughing or wheezing that is worse by a respiratory illness, such as a cold or the flu
Signs that the asthma is getting worse include:
- Asthma signs and symptoms that are more frequent and bothersome
- Increase the problems in breathing so need to use a quick-relief inhaler more frequently
- In some people, symptoms of asthma flare-up in some situations:
- Exercise-induced asthma, which gets worse when the air becomes chill and dry
- Occupational asthma, caused by irritants in the workplace such as chemical fumes, gases or dust
- Allergy-induced asthma, caused by airborne substances, such as pollen, mold spores, cockroach waste or skin particles and dried saliva shed by animals.
When to see a doctor
Seek emergency treatment
Extreme attacks of asthma can be life-threatening. Check with the doctor to decide what to do when the symptoms are getting worse and when you need emergency care. Asthma emergency signs include:
- Rapid worsening of shortness of breath or wheezing
- No change even after using a quick-relief inhaler, such as albuterol
- Breath shortening when performing limited physical activity
Contact your doctor
- If you think you have asthma: When you have excessive coughing or wheezing or any other signs of asthma, see your doctor. Treating asthma early can avoid long-term damage to the lungs and help keep the condition from getting worse over time.
- To monitor your asthma after diagnosis: When you know you are suffering from asthma, consult with the doctor to keep it under control. Effective long-term control makes you feel better every day and can avoid a life-threatening asthma attack.
- If asthma symptoms getting worse: If your medicines do not seem to relieve symptoms or if you need to use a quick-relief inhaler more often, call your doctor right away. Don’t try to solve the problem by taking more medicines without consulting your doctor. Overuse of asthma medication can cause side effects and make asthma worse.
It’s not sure why some people develop asthma and others don’t, but that’s possible because of a combination of environmental and genetic factors.
Exposure to various irritants and substances that trigger allergies can trigger symptoms of asthma. Asthma causes vary from person to person and can include:
- Respiratory infections, such as the common cold
- Physical activity
- Cold air
- Air pollutants and irritants, such as smoke
- Certain medications, including beta-blockers, aspirin, ibuprofen and naproxen
- Strong emotions and tension
It is assumed that a variety of factors raise the risk of developing asthma. Which include:
- Having a blood relative with asthma
- Having another allergic condition, such as atopic dermatitis or allergic rhinitis
- Being a smoker
- Exposure to secondhand smoke
- Exposure to exhaust fumes or other forms of pollution
Asthma risks include:
- Signs and symptoms that interfere with sleep, work or recreational activities
- Sick days from work or school during asthma flare-ups
- Constant narrowing of the bronchial tubes that affects how well you can breathe
- Emergency room visits and hospitalizations for serious asthma attacks
- Side effects from long-term use of certain drugs used to control serious asthma
Proper care makes a major difference in avoiding both short-term and long-term complications caused by asthma.
Although there is no way to avoid asthma, you and your doctor can develop a complete detailed step-by-step plan to deal with your disease and avoid asthma attacks by working together.
• Follow your asthma action plan. Write down a complete plan for taking medicines and treating an asthma attack with your doctor and health care team. Then be sure to follow through with your strategy.
Asthma is a continuing condition which needs frequent monitoring and treatment. Taking control of your treatment will usually allow you to feel more in control of your life.
• Get influenza and pneumonia vaccinated. Staying current with vaccines will prevent flu and pneumonia from causing asthma flare-ups.
• Monitor your breathing. You can learn to identify warning signs of an impending attack, such as mild coughing, wheezing or shortness of breath. But because your lung function can decrease before you notice any signs or symptoms, regularly calculate and record your peak airflow with a home peak flow meter on a regular basis.
• Identify and treat attacks early. When you respond quickly, there is less you will experience a serious attack. You will not need too many medicines to control the signs.
• Take your prescribed medicines. Just because your asthma seems to be getting better, do not change something without talking to your doctor first. Bringing your medications with you to each doctor’s appointment is a smart idea, so your doctor can double-check whether you are using your medicines properly and taking the right dosage.
• Look out for increased use of the quick-relief inhaler. If you find yourself relying on your quick-relief inhaler, such as albuterol, your asthma isn’t under control. Consult your doctor to change your treatment.