What is asthma?
People with asthma have sensitive airways in their lungs. When exposed to certain triggers their airways narrow, making it hard for them to breathe.
Asthma is caused by a combination of complex and incompletely understood environmental and genetic interactions
- The inside lining of the airways becomes red and swollen (inflammation)
- Extra mucus (sticky fluid) may be produced
- The muscle around the airways tightens (bronchoconstriction)
How do you recognise asthma?
Asthmatics usually experience these symptoms most frequently during the night and the early morning or in response to exercise or cold air. Sputum may be produced from the lung by coughing but is often hard to bring up. During recovery from an attack, it may appear pus-like due to high levels of white blood cells called eosinophils
Common triggers include:
- Colds and flu
- Cigarette smoking/ Exposure to cigarette smoke (passive smoking)
- Inhaled allergens (e.g. pollens, moulds, animal dander and dust mites)
- Environmental factors (e.g. dust, pollution, wood smoke and bush fires)
- Changes in temperature and weather
- Certain medications
- Chemicals and strong smells
- Emotional factors
- Some foods and food preservatives, flavourings and colourings.
- Medical and family history
- Physical examination
- Lung function tests
- Response to medication
Can Asthma be Cured
Asthma cannot be cured, but it can be managed. Most people with asthma can carry out their daily activities without asthma symptoms. Good asthma management allows you to lead an active, healthy lifestyle.
- Avoid asthma triggers
- Medicine to be taken every day
There are three main groups of asthma medications:
- Relievers – Relievers provide relief from asthma symptoms within minutes by relaxing the muscles around the airways for up to four hours.
- Preventers – Preventers make the airways less sensitive, reduce the redness and swelling inside the airways and dry up the mucus. It may take a few weeks for preventers to reach their full effect.
- Symptom Controllers –Symptom controllers (also called long acting relievers) help to relax the muscles around the airways for up to 12 hours. They are taken daily, usually at morning and night, and can only be prescribed for people who are taking regular inhaled corticosteroid preventers and are still experiencing asthma symptoms.
How do I know if asthma is under control?
Asthma is under control if you can:
- See your doctor every 6 months
- Follow your asthma action plan
- Have refills for your medicine
- Share your asthma plan with school and daycare