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Medically reviewed by Last updated on Jun 6, 2022.

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.

Normal vs Asthmatic Bronchioles Adult

What is cough-variant asthma?

Cough-variant asthma is a type of asthma that causes a dry cough that keeps coming back. A dry cough may be your only symptom, or you may also have chest tightness. These symptoms may be caused by exercise or exposure to odors, allergens, or respiratory tract infections. Cough-variant asthma is treated the same way as typical asthma.

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 examine you and listen to your lungs. He or she will ask how often you have symptoms and what makes them worse. Tell him or her if you have trouble sleeping, exercising, or doing other activities because of shortness of breath. Your provider 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 a chest x-ray to check for lung problems, or a lung function test. Lung function tests show how well you can breathe.

How is asthma treated?

  • Medicines may be used to 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 asthma attacks. Other medicines may be needed if your regular medicines are not able to prevent attacks.
  • 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.

Treatment options

The following list of medications are in some way related to or used in the treatment of this condition.

View more treatment options

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.

Call your local emergency number (911 in the US) if:

  • You have severe shortness of breath.
  • The skin around your neck and ribs pulls in with each breath.
  • Your peak flow numbers are in the red zone of your AAP.

When should I seek immediate care?

  • You have shortness of breath, even after you take your short-term medicine as directed.
  • Your lips or nails turn blue or gray.

When should I call my doctor?

  • 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 healthcare providers 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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Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.