Asthma is a chronic disease of the airways that makes breathing difficult. It causes inflammation or swelling, and a narrowing of the airways making it more difficult to breathe. During normal breathing, air flows freely in and out of the lungs. However, during an asthma attack or episode, swelling of the airway’s lining increases, muscles surrounding the airways tighten, and thick mucus clogs the tiny airways making it difficult to breathe.
Who gets asthma? Asthma affects people of all ages and while it can start in adulthood, it most often starts during childhood. Young children who wheeze a lot and have frequent respiratory infections that continue beyond 6 years old are at greater risk. Genetics can also play a role in developing asthma. Having a family history of eczema, allergies, or having parents or siblings that have asthma increases risk. We aren’t exactly sure what causes asthma, but we do know exposure to certain things can trigger an asthma attack.
Asthma symptoms vary from person to person and can flare up anytime – day or night. Symptoms may include:
Wheezing – Wheezing is a whistling or squeaky sound when you breathe out.
Coughing – Coughing from asthma is often worse at night or early in the morning, making it hard to sleep. Sometimes coughing can be the only symptom.
Shortness of breath – Some people feel like they can’t catch their breath or feel breathless, as if they can’t get air out of their lungs.
Chest tightness or pain – This can feel like something is squeezing or sitting on your chest.
Asthma symptoms vary from hour-to-hour, day-to-day, week-to-week and over months and can vary from mild to life threatening. Having symptoms may mean your asthma is not well controlled.
See your health care provider if:
- You have symptoms or are using your quick-relief inhaler (rescue) more than two times a week.
- You have symptoms that wake you up two or more times a month.
- You refill your rescue up anytime – day or night. Symptoms may include: inhaler prescription more than two times per year.
- Your asthma is getting in the way of your usual activities like going to school or work.
Don’t ignore asthma symptoms.
Symptoms that are not easily relieved by using a rescue inhaler or that reoccur should be evaluated by your health care provider, or you should go to the emergency room or call 9-1-1. TAKE ASTHMA SERIOUSLY.