FAQ: Asthma

Learn what to do if you've been diagnosed with asthma.

What is asthma?

Asthma is a chronic lung disease. Although it is often talked about as one disease, there are actually many different types of asthma. When you have asthma, the airways in your lungs are inflamed and narrow, which can make it difficult to breathe. Although it is a chronic disease, sometimes you can get an “asthma attack,” which is an acute flare-up of symptoms.

What are the symptoms of asthma?

The symptoms of asthma include coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath, and feeling tightness or pressure in the chest. If you are diagnosed with asthma, you may have all, some, or none of these symptoms at any given time.

Who is at risk of developing asthma?

Anybody can have asthma, but it usually develops during childhood. You are more likely to develop asthma if your parents have asthma. You are also more likely to have asthma is you have allergies. In fact, there is a triad of diseases that often occur together – allergies, eczema, and asthma.

What causes asthma?

Doctors don’t entirely understand what causes asthma. However, asthma attacks typically develop in response to certain triggers. These triggers can be allergens, exercise, or chemicals. Sometimes asthma will occur even without any of these things.

How can I prevent asthma?

Unfortunately, you can’t change whether or not you develop asthma. However, you can take steps to prevent asthma attacks from occurring once you have your diagnosis. Remember what your triggers are and try to avoid them if possible. Talk to your doctor about your asthma and stick to your treatment plan – lots of different medications are used to treat asthma, and it is important to take the ones you are given as prescribed.

How is asthma diagnosed?

Asthma can be diagnosed by assessing your medical history, a physical exam, and certain medical tests. Often, doctors will perform lung function tests, which assess your breathing. When you are diagnosed, the doctor will likely classify you as having intermittent, mild, moderate, or severe asthma depending on your symptoms.

How is asthma treated?

Asthma has no cure. However, there are many medications that can be taken to treat asthma, and your doctor will prescribe different things depending on how severe your symptoms are. Many medications are inhalers that you either use regularly or as-needed. These inhalers can help open your airways or can be steroids that reduce inflammation. Sometimes, oral medications may also be needed to treat asthma.

I’m taking other medications. Could they be impacting my asthma?

It is always important to be aware of the medications you are taking, their side effects, and any potential drug interactions. Always talk to your doctor about your medical conditions, what you are taking, and how they may be impacting your asthma.

I think I’m having an asthma attack – what should I do?

Asthma attacks can be very scary–and dangerous! Try to keep your asthma medication nearby at all times just in case you get an attack. And remember to keep a phone nearby in case you need to call 911.


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