COUGHING, WHEEZING, TIGHT CHEST, SHORTNESS OF BREATH?
What it means and what to do about it.
What is asthma?
Asthma is a common lung condition. About 10 percent of adults and 20 percent of children suffer from asthma. It often starts in childhood but people can develop asthma at any age.
As you breathe, air moves in and out of your lungs through airways or breathing tubes. Each breathing tube has a fine inner lining called a mucous membrane. Wrapped around the airways are muscle fibers that can constrict or relax to alter the size of the airways.
Asthma is a condition of inflammation of the airways caused by certain triggers. With exposure to these triggers, the lining of the airways swell and produces extra mucous . As a result, the muscles tighten and the airways become narrower. This makes it difficult to breathe and results in the condition known as asthma.
Signs and symptoms of asthma
The main symptoms of asthma are characterised by coughing, wheezing (a coarse whistling sound when you breathe), a tight chest and shortness of breath. Symptoms vary from time to time and from person to person. Some people may have all these symptoms. Others may experience coughing or wheezing only or a combination of some of the symptoms. If your symptoms worsen, this could result in an asthma attack.
What causes an asthma attack?
Different people are sensitive to different triggers (things that set off an asthma attack). If you have asthma, it is important to identify your particular triggers and to avoid them as much as possible.
While almost anything can trigger an asthma attack,there are some of the most common triggers:
- House dust
- Cigarette and other smoke
- Animals with fur
- Plant pollen
- Changes in weather
- Physical strain
In the event of an asthma attack:
- Stay calm and try not to panic.
- Breathe as slowly and deeply as possible.
- Take your prescribed medication.
- Check your breathing with a peak flow meter (if your doctor has advised you to do so).
- Ask someone to call your doctor if you have difficulty speaking.
- DO NOT ignore the problem.
Diagnosis and treatment
Asthma cannot be cured, but if managed properly, you can lead a normal life without being limited by your condition. In order to keep your asthma under control, it is important to understand the types of treatment available:
- Reliever medication gives instant relief for a short period of time (4 – 6 hours). It only works on the smooth muscles around the airways and not on the membranes lining the insides of the tiny tubes.
- Controller medication works on the lining of the airways. It does not give immediate relief, however, when used every day over prolonged periods of time, it controls the redness, swelling and mucous production on the inside of the breathing tubes. This keeps symptoms controlled, prevents severe asthma attacks and prevents long-term damage to the airways.
Speak to your doctor about the best treatment for you. He or she will advise on ways to manage your asthma including how and when to take your medication.
Ways to take asthma medication
Asthma management tips
- Take your asthma medication as prescribed.
- Avoid triggers where possible.
- Visit your doctor regularly.
- Lead an active life (get regular exercise).
- Pay attention to signs and symptoms.
Inhalers are widely considered to be the best way to treat asthma and are safe to use. Long-term continual use helps asthmatics breathe properly and lead a normal life.
However, many people with asthma do not get the full benefit of using inhalers because they do not:
- Comply with treatment -Ttaking medication as prescribed and not stopping without consulting their doctor.
- Use the inhaler correctly – Different inhalers require different techniques. It is very important that a healthcare professional shows you how to use your inhaler correctly. Wrong inhaler technique is one of the major reasons for uncontrolled asthma.
A new revolutionary inhaler called Synchrobreathe (SB) was launched recently.
SB is very simple to use, 3 easy steps. By putting the SB inhaler in your mouth and breathing in slowly, you will trigger it to release the medication.
SB also contains a dose counter which allows you to track the doses remaining in the inhaler. This will remind you when it is time to get your new inhaler.
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Please note: This is an educational information leaflet only and should not be used for diagnosis. For more information on asthma, consult your healthcare professional.
Global Initiative for Asthma. Global Strategy for Asthma Management and Prevention, 2017. Available from: www.ginasthma.org