Asthma is a chronic inflammatory disease of the airways. The airways narrow, swell and produce extra mucus. As you can imagine, this makes breathing difficult and causes wheezing, coughing, and shortness of breath.
For some, asthma is a minor thing that barely impacts their lives. For others, it can be a big problem that makes daily life difficult. And, it can cause life-threatening asthma attacks that make it almost impossible to breathe. The condition can’t be cured, but the symptoms can be controlled.
Most of us take breathing for granted, in-out, in-out, no problem. With asthma, when your airways react to irritants or triggers, you may experience a flare-up of your asthma or even an asthma attack.
What Causes Asthma?
The root cause of asthma is unclear, and no single cause has been identified. However, some factors may be the cause of asthma, including:
- Genetics–if a close family member has asthma, you may develop it.
- Hygiene hypothesis–if you haven’t been exposed to “enough” bacteria when young, your immune systems may not become strong enough to fight off asthma.
- Viral infections when young–if you have a history of viral infections during childhood, you may be more likely to develop the condition.
- Allergen exposure–if you’ve had frequent contact with irritants and allergens, you may have an increased risk of developing asthma.
Symptoms of Asthma
The symptoms of asthma are different from person to person. And you may not have all the signs. They will depend on the type of asthma you have. To know for sure if you have asthma, we recommend you see a doctor for testing and diagnosis.
Asthma symptoms can include:
- Coughing when laughing, during exercise, or at night
- Wheezing when breathing
- Tightness in your chest when breathing
- Shortness of breath
- Fatigue or tiredness
Asthma triggers include:
- Respiratory illnesses such as pneumonia and the flu
- Exercise or increased movement that makes breathing difficult
- Allergens such as animal dander, pollen, or dust mites
- Irritants such as strong odors, chemical fumes, or smoke
- Weather conditions such as low temperatures or high humidity
- Strong emotions, such as crying, laughing or shouting
How Is Asthma Treated?
There is no cure for this chronic disease, but it can be managed. This consists of avoiding triggers, breathing exercises, and medications that prevent or treat the symptoms. The goal is to remain symptom-free, of course.
Breathing Exercises to Control Asthma
Breathing exercises such as belly breathing, pursed-lip breathing, and even just focusing on breathing through the nose instead of the mouth can help keep asthma symptoms at bay. There are a variety of methods for breath retraining that help people with asthma control their breath and their asthma.
Quick-Relief Asthma Medication
Quick-relief asthma medications that relax the muscles around the airways help control acute asthma symptoms. These medications usually take the form of an inhaler.
Long-Term Asthma Medication
These medications are usually taken daily to help prevent the onset of asthma symptoms. Long-term asthma medications include inhaled corticosteroids, twice-monthly shots, or inhaled beta2-agonists.
There are many ways to keep asthma under control. The key is to understand the condition and the triggers that can cause an asthma attack.