Has a recent asthma diagnosis left you with lots of questions? While it can’t be cured, when asthma is managed properly, you can lead a normal, healthy life. As symptoms vary from person to person and change over time, it’s important to work with your healthcare team to track your condition and adjust treatment. To find out all you can about asthma, identify your triggers and prevent and relieve symptoms, here’s what you need to know:
What is Asthma?
Asthma is a chronic lung disease that causes swollen or inflamed airways making it difficult to move air in and out of the lungs. It often causes shortness of breath, chest tightness, coughing, wheezing and/or excessive mucous and can be developed at any age. Experts believe asthma is caused by a combination of environmental factors, genetics and lifestyle.
Asthma makes your lungs extra sensitive to “triggers” like a common cold, weather, dust, chemicals, pollen, pet dander or exercise. When you breathe in (or are exposed to) a trigger, your inflamed airways swell even more causing an asthma “attack.”
Keep it in Check
To monitor your asthma and make you feel more in control of your life and health, you should:
Identify Triggers. Figure out what’s causing your asthma attacks so you can avoid triggers, or prepare your body before exposure. Start looking for trends in your flare ups by keeping an asthma diary and go for testing to identify allergens. Once you know what’s causing your inflammation, you’ll have to make some changes. Switch linens regularly, get your annual flu shot, keep pets out of the bedroom, stay inside on days when pollen counts are high or use your medication before physical activity. Everyone’s plan of action will be a little different.
Take your medication. To control your asthma, you’ll likely need to take two different types of medication—don’t leave home without them. Long-term control medicines reduce inflammation and your body’s response to triggers and quick-relief or “rescue” medicines act fast to open tight airways during an attack. Long-term, preventative medications are usually taken daily and you should start to experience fewer symptoms over time. Typically, both preventative and rescue medications are given through inhalers so the medicine can go straight to your lungs with less side effects than pills. Your doses may need to be adjusted, so tell your doctor if you notice you’re using your quick acting inhaler more than usual.
Know when to get help.
You should seek medical attention immediately if you experience the signs of a serious asthma attack. These include:
- Inability to catch your breath or talk in phrases
- Using your inhaler without improvement
- Difficulty walking
- Straining your chest muscles to breathe
- Blue lips or fingernails
For some people asthma is just a minor nuisance, but for others it can interfere with daily activities and cause life-threatening attacks. Instead, take control by finding a treatment plan that works for you to keep you healthy and breathing well.
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