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Asthma: Managing Your Condition

Asthma is a serious and occasionally fatal disease. However, with a careful diagnosis, expert medical treatment and responsible self-care, most people with asthma lead normal, healthy lives.

Causes It is not exactly clear what causes asthma. Those who seem more at risk of developing the condition include individuals with a family history of asthma or allergies, or those who were exposed to tobacco smoke, infections and certain allergens early in life.

Symptoms Common asthma symptoms include the following:

  • Coughing that is often worse at night or early in the morning

  • Wheezing (a whistling or squeaky sound when breathing)

  • Chest tightness

  • Shortness of breath

  • Faster or noisy breathing

  • Trouble breathing, especially at night and in the early morning

Attacks Many factors can lead to an asthma attack. Some people may only have an attack if a combination of triggers is present. Asthma triggers are essentially anything that makes symptoms appear or worsen:

  • Allergens – Animal dander (from their skin,hair or feathers), dust mites (contained in house dust), cockroaches, pollen from trees and grass, and mold (both indoor and outdoor)

  • Irritants – Cigarette smoke, air pollution, cold air or changes in weather, strong odors from painting or cooking, scented products, strong emotional expression (including crying or laughing hard), stress and exercise

  • Other triggers – Medicines such as aspirin and beta-blockers; sulfites in food or beverages; gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) that causes heartburn and can worsen asthma symptoms; infections; and irritants or allergens that one may be exposed to at work,such as special chemicals or dusts

Treatment Treatments for asthma include:

  • Self-management – Plans for controlling asthma daily and an emergency action plan for stopping attacks.

  • Avoiding triggers – Remove dust-catchers from the bedroom; keep humidity levels in your home low; consider using an air filter in the bedroom; do not smoke cigarettes or spend time in environments where others are smoking; try changing your workouts.

  • Medication – Using preventive (long-term control) and rescue (quick-relief) asthma medications; sometimes allergy medications and shots are recommended as well.

Prognosis There is no cure for asthma, but with proper treatment:

  • Your asthma can be controlled.

  • You will have fewer attacks.

  • You should not need to use quick-relief medicines as often.

  • You should be able to do normal activities without having symptoms.


This article is for informational purposes only and is not intended as medical advice. For further information, please consult a medical professional.

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