Asthma is a disease that affects the lungs. It is a very common long-term disease of children, but adults can have it as well. Asthma causes wheezing, breathlessness, chest tightness, and either nighttime or early morning coughing. If you have asthma, you have it all the time, but will only have asthma attacks when something irritates your lungs.
How can you tell if you have asthma?
Having a doctor check how well your lungs work and check for allergies can help you find out if you have asthma. During a checkup, a doctor will ask:
- If you cough a lot, especially at night.
- If your breathing problems are worse after physical activity or at certain times of year.
- About chest tightness, wheezing, and colds lasting more than 10 days.
- Whether anyone in your family has or has had asthma, allergies, or other breathing problems.
The doctor may also do a breathing test, called spirometry, to find out how well your lungs are working. This test shows how much air you can breathe out after taking a very deep breath before and after you use asthma medicine.
Once you visit your Primary Care Physician, they may refer you to see one of the following specialists:
Allergist - Specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of allergic disorders.
Pulmonologist - Specializes in diagnosing and treating conditions that affect the respiratory system.
Respiratory therapist - Specializes in diagnosing, assessing, monitoring, and treating patients suffering from dysfunctions of the cardiopulmonary system.
What is an asthma attack?
An asthma attack may include coughing, chest tightness, wheezing, and trouble breathing. The attack happens in your body’s airways, which are the paths that carry air to your lungs. During an asthma attack, the sides of the airways in your lungs swell and the airways shrink. Less air gets in and out of your lungs, and mucous that your body makes clogs up the airways. 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.
What causes an asthma attack?
An asthma attack can happen when you are exposed to “asthma triggers.” Know your triggers and learn how to avoid them. Some of the most common triggers are tobacco smoke, dust mites, outdoor air pollution, cockroach allergen, pets, mold, smoke from burning wood or grass, and infections like flu.
How is asthma treated?
Take your medicine exactly as your doctor prescribes them to you and stay away from things that can trigger an attack to control your asthma. You can breathe in some medicines and take other medicines as a pill. There are two types of asthma medicines—quick-relief and long-term control. Quick-relief medicines are used to control the symptoms of an asthma attack. If you find yourself using 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’re 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.