Asthma is a serious and occasionally fatal disease. However, with a careful diagnosis, expert medical treatment and responsible self-care, most people with asthma lead normal, healthy lives.
It is not exactly clear what causes asthma. Those who seem more at risk of developing the condition include individuals with a family history of asthma or allergies, or those who were exposed to tobacco smoke, infections and certain allergens early in life.
Common asthma symptoms are:
- Coughing that is often worse at night or early in the morning
- Wheezing (a whistling or squeaky sound when breathing)
- Chest tightness
- Shortness of breath
- Faster or noisy breathing
- Trouble breathing, especially at night and in the early morning
Many factors can lead to an asthma attack. Some people may only have an attack if a combination of triggers is present. Asthma triggers are essentially anything that makes symptoms appear or worsen, including, but not limited to:
- Allergens – Animal dander (from their skin, hair or feathers), dust mites (contained in house dust), cockroaches, pollen from trees and grass, and mold (both indoor and outdoor)
- Irritants – Cigarette smoke, air pollution, cold air or changes in weather, strong odors from painting or cooking, scented products, strong emotional expression (including crying or laughing hard), stress, exercise
- Other Triggers – Medicines such as aspirin and beta-blockers; sulfites in food or beverages; gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) that causes heartburn and can worsen asthma symptoms; infections; and irritants or allergens that one may be exposed to at work, such as special chemicals or dust.
Treatments for asthma include:
- Avoiding triggers – Remove dust-catchers from the bedroom; keep humidity levels in your home low; consider using an air filter in the bedroom; do not smoke cigarettes or spend time in environments where others are smoking; try changing your workouts
- Medication – Using preventive (long-term control) and rescue (quick-relief) asthma medications; sometimes allergy medications and shots are recommended as well
- Self-management – Plans for controlling asthma daily and an emergency action plan for stopping attacks
There is no cure for asthma, but with proper treatment:
- Your asthma can be controlled.
- You will have fewer attacks.
- You should not need to use quick-relief medicines as often.
- You should be able to do normal activities without having symptoms.
This article is for informational purposes only and is not intended as medical advice. For further information, please consult a medical professional.