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What is Asthma: Symptoms, Diagnosis, and Treatment



What is asthma?

Asthma is a medical condition that makes you have difficulty breathing. It is due to the narrowing and inflammation of the airways in your lungs. Sometimes asthma can run in families. 

What are the symptoms of asthma? 

Asthma can cause cough, wheezing (a noise you hear during your breathing), shortness of breath, or chest tightness. 

How often do asthma symptoms occur?

The symptoms of asthma could happen daily, weekly, or less often than that. Your symptoms could be ranging from mild to severe, depending on how controlled your asthma is. “Asthma attacks” is when you develop a relatively sudden worsening of your asthma symptoms. These attacks can be fatal, although that is rare to happen. 

What is an action plan for asthma?

If you have severe asthma, your doctor may recommend that you have an asthma action plan. As part of this plan, you may need to use something called a “peak flow meter, a device you breathe into that will show how well your lungs are working. This asthma action plan will lay out for you which medications to take every day at home for your asthma, which medications to take if your symptoms worsen, and when to ask for help or call 911. 

How can I help my asthma symptoms? 

By staying away from the things that make your asthma worse. In medical terms, we call these “triggers.” Some common asthma triggers include the following: 

  • Exercise: If your asthma gets worse with exercise, you can take a short-acting inhaler before going out to train, and that can typically help you. In general, exercise is good for you even if you have asthma
  • Mold: Clean and remove any mold you have in your house. Keep the air in your home dry by using a dehumidifier
  • Cigarette smoking: If you smoke, quitting smoking will help your asthma symptoms
  • Passive smoking: You are exposed to other people smoking around you can also trigger asthma.
  • Pollen: When it is the pollen season, stay at your home, and keep your windows closed
  • Dust: Putting covers on the pillows, e.g., can reduce dust mites that you may have at your home
  • Certain types of animals: Avoid the animals that cause your asthma symptoms to worsen, such as cats, dogs, cockroaches, or mice.  
  • Stress
  • Being sick with a cold or any other type of viral illnesses: Get your flu shot every year
  • Cold weather
  • Certain types of medications: such as aspirin, ibuprofen, and other types of NSAIDs

How is asthma diagnosed? 

When your doctor suspects that you have asthma, they will order a breathing test (pulmonary function test) for you, assessing your lungs’ function. Your doctor may also order blood or skin tests for you. The skin tests are called allergy testing. 

How is asthma treated? 

Asthma has medications that can be given as inhalers, pills, or both. 

There are two types of inhalers: 

  • Short-acting inhalers: these are inhalers that can act quickly to stop asthma symptoms, usually within less than 15 minutes. They are for quick relief of your symptoms. If you need to use these short-acting inhalers more than 1-2 times per week, contact your doctor to see if they can prescribe inhalers that can better control your asthma symptoms. These short-acting inhalers can be given in the form of nebulizers as well. 

Long-acting inhalers (controllers): these inhalers “control” your asthma and prevent frequent and recurrent asthma symptoms. You need one of these inhalers to use these short-acting inhalers more than 1-2 times per week. These inhalers take longer to work, sometimes a few weeks. So, please continue to take your inhaler and don’t stop it without talking to your doctor first.

Do you think you have Asthma? Call our Pulmonary Clinic at (978) 254-4983 to get scheduled as soon as possible.Click here to Contact Us. If you are experiencing a medical emergency, please call 911.

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