Asthma is a chronic lung condition in which the airways become inflamed, constricted (narrowed), and produce excess mucus. This can make it difficult to breath. The most common symptoms of asthma are cough, wheezing (a whistling noise when you exhale), chest tightness, and shortness of breath. If you have recurrent bronchitis or colds always tend to go to your chest, that could be asthma. Do you feel after you are sick, you have a cough that lingers longer than anyone else’s seems to? Does your child have trouble keeping up with kids their age when running and playing? All that could be asthma. Often people think you have to wheeze to have asthma, but that is not true. Some people only have cough. In fact, asthma is one of the most common causes of chronic cough. Some people with asthma have symptoms on an almost daily basis. Others only have symptoms when they are sick or when their allergies are flaring. Asthma symptoms commonly occur in the middle of the night or with exercise but can occur at any time. Symptoms may be minor, but at times, symptoms can be severe and even lead to a life-threatening attack.
Asthma can be allergic or non-allergic, meaning that it is caused by other factors such as exercise, illness, stress, extreme weather, or other irritants. Even those with allergic asthma may have symptoms triggered by non-allergic factors. Asthma often occurs in children but can start in adulthood as well. There is not one specific cause of asthma. Genetics are thought to play a major role. So, if one of your family members has allergies or asthma, you may be at increased risk for developing asthma. Environmental factors can also play a role, such as exposure to air pollution, exhaust fumes, chemicals, or secondhand smoke.
If you think you may have asthma or want to be screened for asthma, you can schedule an appointment with an allergist. They will first take a detailed history and perform a physical examination. Then you will have a pulmonary function test which will measure your lung function. Sometimes, they may also recommend allergy testing if they think allergies are a main trigger for your asthma.
Asthma is a chronic condition that has to be managed over time. There is no cure for asthma. That being said, there are many effective treatments available so that asthma does not affect how you live your life. Avoidance of triggers such as allergies and irritants is the first line of treatment. Next, medications are used to both treat and prevent asthma symptoms. The main medications used to control asthma symptoms are inhalers. There are many different inhalers, and your doctor will help determine the right fit for you. There are also newer therapies available as add on therapies referred to as biologic therapies for moderate to severe asthma. Your doctor should make you an asthma action plan that explains how and when to use each of your asthma medications and what to do if your asthma starts flaring. Lastly, for allergic asthma, allergy immunotherapy, commonly referred to allergy shots can help treat asthma.
You should see an allergist for your asthma if:
· Your asthma symptoms occur every day and often at night or limit your activity
· You have had a life-threatening asthma attack
· You take oral steroids or steroid injections twice a year or more
· You have been hospitalized for your asthma
· You are not responding to your current asthma treatment
· Your goals for asthma treatment have not been met
· Your symptoms are unusual or hard to diagnose
· You have allergies or sinus issues that complicate your asthma
· You think allergy shots may help
· You are interested in biologic therapies
· You want to identify your allergy seasons that may be contributing to your asthma
· You need more instructions or a more detailed treatment plan
Don’t let asthma hold you back! Take control of your asthma so you can live the life you want!