What Is Asthma?
Asthma is a long-term disease where your airways become inflamed and narrow, making it harder to breathe. This can cause chest tightness, shortness of breath, and coughing.
It’s affects all ages, but is usually diagnosed in kids. More than 25 million people have it.
Your airways are tubes that carry air in and out of your lungs. When the airways react to an allergen, the muscles around them tighten, which limits the air getting into the lungs.
Cells in the airways can also make more mucus in this situation, which further makes it hard to breathe.
And once this has all happened, it’s easy for things like stress or activity to make it even worse. Asthma’s symptoms are in many ways, a chain reaction.
There is no cure for asthma, but there are great forms of treatment, including meds, nebulizers, and inhalers. These let you prevent and treat attacks right away to prevent a more serious attack, which can require emergency care.
Everyone’s is a little different. Many things create the recipe, or chain reaction, for your asthma. Your age, triggers, allergens in your environment, weight, overall health, where you live, and which meds you’re taking can all matter.
- Acid Reflux
- Bad Weather
- Certain Foods
- Certain Medicines
- Cold or Dry Air
- Food Additives
- High Humidity
- Infections from Flu, Cold, or Virus
- Strong Emotions or Stress
- Cockroach Allergens
- Dust Mites
- Outdoor Air Pollution
- Smoke from Burning Outdoors
- Tobacco Smoke
Your allergies especially affect your asthma. Your runny nose, sniffling, and sneezing can actually start that chain reaction. And by treating them, you can actually improve your asthma.
Everyone with asthma should have an Asthma Action Plan that they make with their doctor. It’s a personalized plan that has:
- The kinds of medicine you’ll take
- When you’ll take it
- How you’ll manage it long-term
- How you should handle attacks
- How you’ll manage your allergies
- When you should go to your doctor or the ER
Even though each person will have a different set of things that cause their symptoms, asthma medicine categories are the same for everyone.
Combinations and doses vary, but most people with asthma have 2 kinds of meds, a quick-relief one in case of a flare-up and a long-term controller they take daily.
Types of Meds
What It Does
|This is your most important med. When taken daily, these help control symptoms and prevent attacks. Skipping doses raises your risk of attack.||
- Inhaled Corticosteroids
- Leukotriene Modifiers
- Long-Acting Beta-Agonists (LABAs)
- A Combination Inhaler with a Corticosteroid and an LABA
Quick-Relief or Rescue Meds
|Take these as needed to quickly treat an attack and to prevent attacks from exercise. If you’re using these more than 2x a week, tell your doctor.||Short-Acting Beta-Agonists:
- Albuterol (Proventil, Ventolin)
- Metaproterenol (Alupent, Metaprel)
- Pirbuterol (Maxair)
- Bitolterol (Tornalate)
- Levalbuterol (Xopenex)
|Take these daily or as needed to control allergies, like pollen, mold, grass, etc.||
- Allergy Shots (Immunotherapy)
- Omalizumab (Xolair)
Source: National Institutes of Health (NIH)
Your Action Plan
Make sure you have the answers to these important questions in your action plan:
- What are the names of my medicines?
- What does each one do?
- What are their side effects?
- What can I do to decrease their side effects?
- Will they work with other drugs, vitamins, food, and drinks?
- How much is a dose of each?
- When is the best time to take each? With breakfast, before bed, or with symptoms?
- How long do I have to take them?
Things You Can Do
You should also work with your doctor or our disease management program to make sure you know how to use your inhaler and flow meter.
Keeping track of your triggers and taking care of yourself can also help: