Although medical experts are not exactly sure what causes asthma, it is believed to be a mix of inherited and environmental factors.
People with asthma have very sensitive airways. This means the airways react to certain triggers such as pollen, dust, or smoke and become swollen and narrowed. When this happens muscles around the airways tighten and a flare up may occur. Symptoms may include:
- Chest tightness
- Shortness of breath
- Wheezing (a whistling noise, especially when breathing out)
- Low energy or feeling tired
- Faster breathing when at rest
If you are diagnosed with asthma you may be given two types of medications: one that you take all the time to prevent asthma attacks, and another – usually an inhaler – that opens your airways quickly when an asthma attack occurs. You may also be given a hand-held device called a peak flow meter that measures your lung capacity when you exhale. This can help you determine if you may be on the verge of an attack, or if your asthma is getting worse.
Severe flare-ups can occur which are life-threatening. In a severe flare-up, the muscle tightening, swelling, and mucus production make it very hard to breathe. Call 9-1-1 (or have someone call for you) if you have any of these symptoms and they are not relieved right away by taking your quick-relief medicine as prescribed.
Asthma is a long-term condition. It’s important to work with your healthcare provider to manage it. If you smoke, get help to quit. Know your triggers and figure out how to avoid them. It’s also very important to take your medicines as directed.