What Is Asthma? Asthma is defined as recurrent episodes of wheezing, breathlessness, chest tightness, and nighttime or early morning coughing. One episode of wheezing does not make you an asthmatic. It is a common long-term disease among children that causes the airways to become inflamed, which makes it hard to breathe. Chronic means that the disease is always there, it does not go away, even during times when you aren’t having symptoms. There is no cure for asthma, but it can be controlled with proper management. The best way to manage asthma is to avoid triggers, use medications to prevent symptoms, and treat asthma attacks if they occur.
How Is Asthma Diagnosed? Asthma can be hard to diagnose, especially in children younger than 5 years of age. Regular checkups that include a thorough medical history and lung exam can help make the right diagnosis. When the diagnosis is in question, checking lung function tests and allergies may be helpful depending on the child’s age. Wheezing isn’t the only symptom of asthma. People with asthma can also …
What Is an Asthma Attack? An asthma attack/episode happens in your airways. During an asthma attack, the walls of the airways in your lungs swell and the airways shrink. Less air gets in and out of your lungs. In addition, the mucus that your body produces clogs up the airways even more. An acute attack may include coughing, chest tightness, wheezing, and trouble breathing.
What Causes an Asthma Attack? An asthma attack can occur when you are exposed to things in the environment that cause your airways to become inflamed. Below is a list of the most common triggers. Your personal triggers can be very different from those of another person with asthma. Nonetheless, in every case, it is important to avoid your triggers to keep down the inflammation in your airways and reduce your symptoms.
There are many other triggers such as respiratory infections, cold air, cockroach droppings, air pollution, some foods or food additives, physical activity, etc. Learn what triggers your attacks so that you can avoid the triggers whenever possible. Be alert for a possible attack when the triggers cannot be avoided.
How Do You Treat Asthma? Not everyone with asthma takes the same medicine. The type of medications you are prescribed depends on the severity of your asthma. Asthma medicines come in two types – quick relief and long-term control. Quick-relief medicines control the symptoms of an acute asthma attack. If you have frequent asthma attacks or use your quick-relief medication often (more than 2 days/week), your asthma may not be well controlled. If you need to use your quick-relief medicines more and more, you should call us to see if you need a long-term medication. Long-term medications help reduce the inflammation in your airways and cause you to have fewer and milder attacks, but they don’t help you if you’re having an acute asthma attack.
People with Asthma should have an Asthma Action Plan. An asthma action plan is a written plan that you develop with your doctor to help control your asthma. The asthma action plan shows your daily treatment to control your asthma long-term, but also outlines which medication and how much to take during an acute asthma attack. The plan explains when to call the doctor or go to the emergency room. If your child has asthma, all of the people who care for him or her should know about the child’s asthma action plan.
How Often Do You Need To See Your Doctor? As discussed above, asthma is a chronic condition. It is still there even if you do not have active symptoms. Asthma can change over time, so it is important to have regular visits with the doctor to keep asthma well controlled.
You can learn more about asthma action plans from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute at http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/public/lung/asthma/asthma_actplan.htm