Asthma is a chronic disease that affects your airways. If you have asthma, the inside walls of your airways become sore and swollen, making them very sensitive. Your airways may react strongly to allergens or irritants by narrowing, and therefore your lungs receive less air.

Symptoms of asthma include

  • Wheezing
  • Coughing, especially early in the morning or at night
  • Chest tightness
  • Shortness of breath

Not all people who have asthma have these symptoms and having these symptoms doesn’t always mean that you have asthma. Asthma is diagnosed based on lung function tests, medical history, and a physical exam. You may also have allergy tests.

Asthma affects people of all ages, however it most often starts during childhood and more than 25 million people in the United States have asthma. The symptoms can be mild, severe, or any measure in between, however, severe symptoms can be fatal, so it is important to treat symptoms at the onset.

Some things that trigger asthma symptoms include

  • Allergens from dust, animal fur, mold, and pollens from trees, grasses, and flowers
  • Irritants such as cigarette smoke, air pollution, chemicals or dust, and sprays (such as hairspray)
  • Medicines such as aspirin or other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and non-selective beta-blockers
  • Sulfites in foods and drinks
  • Viral upper respiratory infections, such as colds
  • Physical activity, including exercise

The goal is to control asthma as there is no cure and you should take an active role in your treatment. Asthma is treated with two types of medications, one that works over the long-term to manage the disease and another that is quick-acting, relieving the sudden onset of symptoms.

If you are concerned that you may have asthma, or your asthma symptoms are getting worse, make an appointment with your physician. To learn more about asthma and the management, causes, and treatment of this disease, visit the following websites:

National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute
American Academy of Allergy Asthma & Immunology

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NOTE: The health information provided on this website is designed to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the guidance of your physician or other qualified healthcare professional before starting a new treatment or to answer questions about a medical condition.