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What is asthma?

Asthma is a lung disease that makes breathing difficult. Chronic inflammation and reactions to triggers narrow the airways in the lungs. Asthma can become life-threatening if it is not managed.

What are the signs and symptoms of asthma?

  • Coughing
  • Wheezing
  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest tightness

What may trigger an asthma attack?

  • A cold, the flu, or a sinus infection
  • Exercise
  • Weather changes, especially cold, dry air
  • Smoking or secondhand smoke
  • Fumes from chemicals, dust, air pollution, or other small particles in the air
  • Pets, pollen, dust mites, or cockroaches

How is asthma diagnosed?

Your healthcare provider will ask how often you have symptoms and what makes them worse. Tell him if you have trouble sleeping, exercising, or doing other activities from shortness of breath. He will ask about your allergies and past colds, and if anyone in your family has allergies or asthma. Tell your healthcare provider about medicines you take, including over-the-counter drugs and herbal supplements. You may need an x-ray to check for lung problems, or a lung function test.

How is asthma treated?

  • Medicines decrease inflammation, open airways, and make it easier to breathe. Medicines may be inhaled, taken as a pill, or injected. Short-term medicines relieve your symptoms quickly. Long-term medicines are used to prevent future attacks. You may also need medicine to help control your allergies.
  • Allergy testing may find allergies that trigger an asthma attack. You may need allergy shots or medicine to control allergies that make your asthma worse.

How can I manage my symptoms and prevent future attacks?

  • Follow your Asthma Action Plan (AAP). This is a written plan that you and your healthcare provider create. It explains which medicine you need and when to change doses if necessary. It also explains how you can monitor symptoms and use a peak flow meter. The meter measures how well your lungs are working.
  • Manage other health conditions , such as allergies, acid reflux, and sleep apnea.
  • Identify and avoid triggers. These may include pets, dust mites, mold, and cockroaches.
  • Do not smoke or be around others who smoke. Nicotine and other chemicals in cigarettes and cigars can cause lung damage. Ask your healthcare provider for information if you currently smoke and need help to quit. E-cigarettes or smokeless tobacco still contain nicotine. Talk to your healthcare provider before you use these products.
  • Ask about the flu vaccine. The flu can make your asthma worse. You may need a yearly flu shot.

When should I seek immediate care?

  • You have severe shortness of breath.
  • Your lips or nails turn blue or gray.
  • The skin around your neck and ribs pulls in with each breath.
  • You have shortness of breath, even after you take your short-term medicine as directed.
  • Your peak flow numbers are in the red zone of your AAP.

When should I contact my healthcare provider?

  • You run out of medicine before your next refill is due.
  • Your symptoms get worse.
  • You need to take more medicine than usual to control your symptoms.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your caregivers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

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