Asthma Basics: What You Need to Know
General Asthma information
What is asthma?
- The number of people with asthma continues to grow
- One in 12 people (about 25 million, or 8% of the U.S. population) had asthma in 2009 compares with 1 in 14 (about 20 million or 7%) in 2001
- More than half (59%) of children and one-third (33%) of adults who had an asthma attack missed school or work because of asthma in 2008
- On average in 2008, children missed 4 days of school and adults missed 5 days of work because of asthma.
- Asthma was linked to 3,447 deaths (about 9 per day) in 2007
Asthma is a chronic disease of the airways and lungs. It causes inflammation of the airways that gets worse when you are exposed to certain things in the environment, also known as asthma triggers.
The symptoms of asthma may include:
- Chronic coughing, especially at night
- Shortness of breath with or without exercise
- Chest tightness
- Wheezing-a scratching or whistling sound that comes from deep in your chest when you breathe
Asthma flare-ups or “attacks” are often caused by exposure to allergens such as pet dander, dust mite, mold or pollen.
Non-allergic asthma triggers include illness, weather changes or extremes of temperature, pollutants or smoke exposure, stress or extremes of emotion. Asthma symptoms may also be triggered by exercise.
Children & Asthma
Children with asthma may show the same signs of asthma as adults: coughing, wheezing and shortness of breath. In some, the only symptoms may be cough.
Take care about asthma rescue inhalers: Read Info
If you or your child has one or more of these common symptoms, make an appointment with an allergist/immunologist:
- Coughing that is constant or that is made worse by viral infections, happens while you or your child is asleep, or is triggered by exercise or extreme weather changes
- Recurrent wheezing or shortness of breath
- Chest tightness
- Fatigue or the inability to keep up with peers in routine activities, play or sports
- Problems sleeping due to coughing or difficulty breathing
Pay attention to patterns or symptoms. This will help your allergist/immunologist make the proper diagnosis. Consider if symptoms occur with exercise, early in the morning or at night, during certain seasons, with laughing or crying or with common allergic triggers.
How is asthma diagnosed?
In very young children, asthma diagnosis is based on a thorough medical and family history as well as physical exam. In some children, allergy testing may be indicated if a specific trigger is suspected.
Children with a family history of asthma in their parents have a personal history of eczema or food allergy and who wheeze outside of colds have a greater likelihood of developing more persistent asthma.
In school aged children and adults, a breathing test may be performed to see how well the lung work in addition to a thorough medical and family history as well as allergy testing if indicated.
How is asthma treated?
There is no cure for asthma, but it can be controlled.
Avoiding triggers that cause asthma is very important. Allergen desensitization via allergy shots may be an option for some. Your doctor will talk to you about controller and rescue medications if needed.
Every asthma patient needs to have an asthma action plan. This is a plan that outlines daily treatment and what to do in case asthma flares.
People with asthma are at risk of developing complications from respiratory infections such as influenza and pneumonia. That is why it is important to consider receiving vaccinations as recommended by your primary doctor and your allergist/immunologist.
Do you have more questions about asthma?
For personalized information about an asthma diagnosis, you should talk to an allergist. Contact us to schedule an appointment.
Asthma Overview, American Academy of Allergy Asthma & Immunology (AAAAI)
Asthma Management, American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology (ACAAI)
DISCLAIMER: This blog is for informational purposes only. It does not replace medical care from a licensed physician. If you have a medical concern, please contact your doctor.