Asthma is one of the most common long-term diseases of children, but adults can have asthma, too. Asthma is a chronic disease that affects your airways. Your airways are tubes that carry air in and out of your lungs. If you have asthma, the inside walls of your airways become sore and swollen. That makes them very sensitive, and they may react strongly to things that you are allergic to or find irritating. When your airways react, they get narrower and your lungs get less air.
Symptoms of asthma include:
Coughing, especially early in the morning or at night
Shortness of breath.
How Can You Tell if You Have Asthma?
Not all people who have asthma have these symptoms. Having these symptoms doesn’t always mean that you have asthma.
It can be hard to tell if someone has asthma, especially in children under age 5. Having a doctor check how well your lungs work and check for allergies can help you find out if you have asthma. Your doctor will diagnose asthma based on lung function tests, your medical history, and a physical exam.
During a checkup, the doctor will ask if you cough a lot, especially at night. He or she will then ask whether your breathing problems are worse after physical activity or at certain times of year. The doctor will then also ask about chest tightness, wheezing, and colds lasting more than 10 days. He or she will ask whether anyone in your family has or has had asthma, allergies, or other breathing problems. Finally, the doctor will ask questions about your home and if you have trouble doing certain things.
The doctor will also do a breathing test, called spirometry, to find out how well your lungs are working. The doctor will use a computer with a mouthpiece to test how much air you can breathe out after taking a very deep breath. The spirometer can measure airflow before and after you use asthma medicine.
What Is an Asthma Attack?
When your asthma symptoms become worse than usual, it’s called an asthma attack. Severe asthma attacks may require emergency care, and they can be fatal.
You can control your asthma by knowing the warning signs of an asthma attack, staying away from things that cause an attack, and following your doctor’s advice. When you control your asthma:
you won’t have symptoms such as wheezing or coughing,
you’ll sleep better,
you won’t miss work or school,
you can take part in all physical activities, and
you won’t have to go to the hospital.
What Causes an Asthma Attack?
An asthma attack can happen when you are exposed to “asthma triggers”. Your triggers can be very different from those of someone else with asthma. Know your triggers and learn how to avoid them. Watch out for an attack when you can’t avoid the triggers. Some of the most common triggers are tobacco smoke, dust mites, outdoor air pollution, cockroach allergen, pets, mold, and smoke from burning wood or grass.
How Is Asthma Treated?
Take your medicine exactly as your doctor tells you and stay away from things that can trigger an attack to control your asthma.
Everyone with asthma does not take the same medicine.
You can breathe in some medicines and take other medicines as a pill. Asthma medicines come in two types:
quick-relief medicines to stop asthma symptoms, and
long-term control medicines to prevent symptoms.
Quick-relief medicines control the symptoms of an asthma attack. If you need to use your quick-relief medicines more and more, visit your doctor to see if you need a different medicine. Long-term control medicines help you have fewer and milder attacks, but they don’t help you while you are having an asthma attack.
Asthma medicines can have side effects, but most side effects are mild and soon go away. Ask your doctor about the side effects of your medicines.
Remember – you can control your asthma. With your healthcare provider’s help, make your own asthma action plan. Decide who should have a copy of your plan and where he or she should keep it. Take your long-term control medicine even when you don’t have symptoms.
Know How To Use Your Asthma Inhaler
You can control your asthma and avoid an attack by taking your medicine exactly as your doctor or other medical professional tells you to do and by avoiding things that can cause an attack.