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WHAT IS ASTHMA?
We do not fully understand what causes asthma, and there is no cure for it, but if you team up with your doctor and work out an asthma management plan that you are able to stick to every day, you can lead a healthy, fulfilling, active life.
Asthma is a long-term condition of the lungs. The airways in people with asthma are more sensitive than usual, and easily become inflamed.
SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS
Typical asthma symptoms include cough, wheeze, shortness of breath and a tight chest. However not all of these symptoms are present in the same way in all people with asthma, and some or all of these symptoms may be present in other lung conditions, so the diagnosis is not always obvious.
WHAT CAUSES AN ASTHMA ATTACK?
Asthma symptoms vary between individuals. Some people have typically mild symptoms that are only triggered (for example) by exercise, whilst others suffer from severe symptoms that intermittently affect school or work, and sometimes result in a visit to the emergency room. In an individual, symptoms vary within a single day, over weeks and over stages of life. A person with asthma may feel well in the morning, but suffer from a cough in the evening. They may experience a worsening of symptoms during a particular season. Pollen sensitive people tend to develop worsening symptoms in spring, whereas house dust mite tends to trouble people more in winter when homes are heated and humid.
Another important point about asthma is that symptoms often occur as a result of triggers, and people with asthma can often identify their particular personal triggers.
CONTROL IS THE KEY
We have learned that asthma is a variable condition and that it is not curable. To prevent people with asthma from feeling controlled by their condition it is important for them to learn how to control their symptoms every day.
This can be achieved by using asthma medication consistently. Not only must controller medication be taken daily, it must also be taken correctly so that the medication reaches the small airways to control inflammation. This requires good asthma device education.
If a person feels that their asthma is not well managed and their control is poor, it is important for them to see their doctor or asthma nurse for advice on how to improve management.
- Global Initiative for Asthma. Global Strategy for Asthma Management and Prevention, 2020. Available from www.ginasthma.org
- Gautier C. Charpin D. Environmental triggers and avoidance in the management of asthma. Journal of Asthma and Allergy. 10 (2017)
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Asthma is a common lung condition. About 10 percent of adults and 20 percent of children suffer from asthma. It often starts in childhood but people can develop asthma at any age.
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