What is asthma?
- When you breathe, air goes to your lungs through airways or breathing tubes.
- Asthma is a chronic disease that causes airways to be more sensitive, making it difficult to breathe.
Asthma attacks happen when your airways get swollen and narrow.
- An asthma attack can feel like breathing through a thin straw.
- With less space for the air to go through, it is harder for air to get in and out of the lungs.
Who is likely to develop asthma?
- People with family members who have asthma.
- People with allergies.
- People frequently exposed to irritants – like smoke, pollution, or chemicals.
- People with frequent respiratory infections.
Asthma affects both children and adults.
- Asthma usually starts in children between 2 to 6 years old.
Asthma can also develop in adulthood.
- Someone who had asthma as a child may develop it again as an adult.
There is no cure for asthma, but asthma can be managed.
Ways you can prevent and treat asthma:
- Learn about asthma
- Ask your doctor about new developments and creating an asthma action plan
- Take prescribed medications
- Monitor your health and breathing patterns
- Allergy proof your home
- Stay indoors when pollution is high
- Choose healthy foods you are not allergic to
Your doctor can prescribe two kinds of medication.
One to use when you have an attack:
- Emergency relief medication quickly opens up your airways
- This usually comes in an inhaler
Another to prevent asthma attacks:
- You may be able to take medication daily to prevent attacks
- This may be a pill or can come in an inhaler
Asthma attacks can be triggered by:
Allergic reactions to:
- Pollen, dust, mold, cockroaches
- Food – like milk, eggs, peanuts
Things that irritate your lungs:
- Smoke, weather changes, pollution, cold/dry air, perfumes, fumes from cleaning products
- Strenuous Activity – like exercise
Asthma attacks can also be triggered by:
- Emotions – like anxiety, stress
- An upper respiratory tract infection – like a cold, flu or infection in the sinuses
- GERD – gastroesophageal reflux disease
You may be having an asthma attack if you have:
- Trouble breathing
- A tight or painful feeling in your chest
- A whistling or hissing sound when you breathe (called wheezing)
- A cough
Asthma attacks often don’t stop on their own, so you need to act quickly!
Watch your breathing for:
- Shortness of breath
- Keep an inhaler with you at all times.
- Tell someone right away if you feel any signs of an asthma attack.
You can learn what triggers an asthma attack by asking yourself:
- When did the attack happen?
- What was I doing before the attack?
- Where was I before the attack?
- How was I feeling before the attack?
Avoid the triggers that cause your attacks.
- Dust and vacuum your home often.
- Keep indoor air clean with air filters and air conditioning.
- Write down your allergies so you know what to avoid.
- Prevent colds, the flu, and other infections.
Winter weather can increase the risk of asthma attacks.
Breathing the cold, dry winter air can trigger asthma attacks.
- Wear a scarf or facemask over your nose and mouth to warm the air you breathe.
- Exercise indoors, like swimming in a heated pool.
- Drink lots of liquids to keep your airways hydrated.