What is asthma?

Asthma is a chronic respiratory illness that affects millions of Americans of all ages. Although there is no cure for asthma, it can be controlled through medications and environmental management. Asthma can be life threatening so it’s important to treat immediately during an attack . Asthma has two main components: (1) bronchoconstriction: muscles around the airway contract and squeeze the airway smaller and (2) inflammation: swelling of the inner-lining of the airways. Asthma has “triggers” meaning if the person is exposed to this it can stimulate or aggravate the disease and cause an ‘exacerbation’ or attack of asthma.

What are the symptoms?

Asthma symptoms can include coughing (usually caused by excess mucous production), shortness of breath, wheezing and chest tightness but not necessarily all. Asthma symptoms may be worse at certain times of the day such as at night time or early morning.

How do you diagnose asthma?

Asthma is diagnosed using the patient’s medical history, history of symptoms, family medical history, testing with pulmonary function testing (PFT) or Peak Flow monitoring , blood work and chest x-rays and a physical examination or a combination of some or all of these.

Asthma Action Plan

An asthma action plan is a written plan for asthma management created by the doctor and the patient working together. It uses a stop light design along with the use of at home symptoms and peak-flow meter measurements to guide the use of medications and when to contact the doctor.

Download the full action plan or a wallet-sized action plan.

Asthma Control Test

Is your asthma under control? Take the Asthma Control Test for people over the age of 12 or for children ages 4 to 11.

How to manage your asthma

In order to treat Asthma effectively, we must understand what “triggers” or initiates the hyper-reactive response for that particular person. In other words, what makes your asthma worse? Examples of triggers include: exercise, cold air, hot air, dust, aerosols, animal dander, extreme emotions, certain foods and more.

The second means of treatment for asthma is through medications. There are two categories of asthma medications: rescue that is used when a response is needed right away during distress and controller that is used regularly over time to control the symptoms and ideally prevent the need for rescue medicine use.

Both the bronchoconstriction and inflammation components of Asthma must be treated. Bronchodilator medicines relax the muscles around the airways to dilate (open up) the air passage and steroids are used to combat inflammation.The best route for response from Asthma medicine is to breathe it in such as in nebulizers and metered dose ‘inhalers’.

Pulmonary Function Testing (PFTs) and Peak flow meters are tools that can be used to assess the severity of Asthma and how well the asthmatic is responding to medicines or control. There are also breathing exercises that can be taught to help with to make getting air in and out a little easier.