What is asthma?

Asthma is a chronic lung condition in which the airways are extra sensitive, which causes them to react by narrowing, making breathing more difficult. It can occur in people of any age, but usually strikes for the first time during childhood.

The first signs of asthma are often a cough or slight shortness of breath, especially after exercise. Other common signs are wheezing, coughing, and chest tightness. The symptoms of asthma can be quite similar to to the symptoms of allergic reactions, bronchitis, or postnasal drip, so your doctor may want to perform tests to rule out other breathing problems before beginning treatment for asthma.

A key component to helping you manage your asthma is medication. There are two main types of medication you can take for asthma : anti – inflammatory drugs and bronchodilators. Anti-inflammatory medications help to prevent asthma attacks by reducing inflammation, swelling, and mucus in the airways. This prevents symptoms such as coughing, wheezing, and breathlessness. Bronchodilators relieve the spasms in the muscles surrounding the airways that bring on sudden symptoms. They are to be taken after an asthma attack has started; they relax the tight muscles that constrict the breathing passages allowing air to move more easily while breathing.

Some common asthma medications include:

There are many things that can trigger an asthma attack, and the vary from person to person. Asthma triggers fall into two main categories: allergic triggers and non-allergic triggers.

Allergic triggers can include:

  • pollen
  • dust mites
  • mold
  • animal dander
  • certain foods

Non-allergic triggers can include:

  • tobacco smoke and smoke from fires
  • fumes from perfumes and chemicals
  • weather conditions (high humidity, cold air)
  • emotional situations (anxiety, strees, crying)
  • infections (colds, chest infections)
  • certain medications (ASA, some eye drops, some blood pressure pills)
  • exercise

Sometimes your asthma may require immediate medical attention. Call your doctor or visit the emergency room if:

  • you have a severe asthma attack
  • you experience chest pains
  • you begin to cough and can’t stop
  • your oral temperature rises above 38° C (100° F) during an asthma attack

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