What Is Asthma?

Asthma is a chronic inflammatory lung disease.  It is one of the most common chronic diseases of childhood. It cannot be cured, but it can be controlled.  Asthma affects the airways in your lung.  During an acute episode the airway linings are swollen and inflamed.  The airways also produce more mucus and the muscles around the airways tighten.  All of this leads to narrower airways which makes it harder to breathe.  Some people think that asthma only can come on during childhood or that it “goes away”.  Although its onset is commonly during childhood asthma can occur throughout your life.  Childhood asthma may abate during puberty or young adulthood only to reoccur in middle age.

Common Signs and Symptoms of Asthma:

  • Coughing-for some people, this may be the only symptom of asthma.  It may only occur at night or after exercise.
  • Shortness of breath while walking or at rest
  • Wheezing- Not all people with asthma wheeze
  • Chest tightness
  • Fatigue and feeling out of breath
  • During an acute phase inability to complete/talk in full sentences
  • Retractions in the spaces between ribs and along the clavicle bones

Know Your Triggers:

People with asthma have airways that are super sensitive to things that do not bother people who do not have asthma.  “Triggers” of asthma are not the same for every person.  Causes of asthma episodes include:

  • Allergies
  • Viral infections and colds
  • Sinusitis
  • Exercise
  • Emotions such as laughing, crying
  • Cigarette smoke, wood smoke, air pollution
  • Drugs
  • Weather changes
  • Strong odors/smells

Learn more about controlling indoor and outdoor allergies

How Can I Prevent an Acute Episode?

  • Work closely with your doctor to ensure that you understand your disease.
  • Plan ways to avoid or reduce contact with your triggers.
  • Get a written asthma care plan that keeps you informed about what to do when asthma flares.
  • Use your medications as your physician directs and take them REGULARLY as they are prescribed. (“Learn more” link to asthma medications and devices)
  • Stay Healthy! Eat healthy meals, drink plenty of water and get some form of regular exercise.

Work Toward Your Goals of Therapy:

1) Have well controlled asthma with decreased symptoms that allow you to lead a normal life without restriction.

2) Stay informed to allow you to take control of their asthma instead of the asthma controlling you.

3)  Get proper treatment, which allows you to:

Be active without having asthma symptoms.  This includes participating in PE classes, exercise and sports.

  • Sleep through the night without having asthma symptoms.
  • Prevent asthma attacks from starting.
  • Avoid side effects from asthma medications.