What is asthma? Info
Asthma is a disease that affects the lungs and airways which means it can be difficult for air to reach your lungs because your airways become inflamed and get narrower1. The constriction of the airways in asthma, unlike in other pulmonary diseases, is typically reversible either by using medication or not, but, as asthma is a chronic condition it means that it can be managed and can improve, but not be cured2. It is not contagious but is thought to run in families3, so if one of your parents has or had asthma, you may be more likely to develop it yourself.
How do I know I have asthma? Info
There are a number of asthma signs and symptoms that may mean you have the condition. These can include symptoms like4:
- Coughing at night
- Wheezing or coughing after exercise
- A feeling of chest tightness
- Feeling breathless
- Symptoms seem to get worse when: undertaking exercise; if you have a viral infection; or when allergens such as airborne chemicals, cigarette smoke or dust are around
Did you know there are different types of asthma? Info
Like other illnesses, there isn’t just one type of asthma. There are different types which have different triggers and may need different treatments. Types of asthma include:
- Allergic asthma – your breathing can be made worse if you are exposed to things like dust, pollen and animal/pet fur/viral infections5
- Cough variant asthma – this type of asthma means that your main symptom will be a cough that you are unable to get rid of (lasting more than eight weeks)4
- Exercise induced asthma – this means that your breathing may get worse when you exercise and you may cough a lot more than usual (the coughing should fade after 30 or 40 minutes)4
- Occupational asthma – your asthma may get worse when you are at work (not because you are allergic to work!) because you are exposed to something that causes your breathing, coughing or wheezing to get worse. For example, you may be a baker surrounded by flour all day and not realise that flour is actually causing your asthma to get worse4
Asthma can also be associated with other conditions such as allergic rhinitis (hay fever), aspirin sensitivity, obesity, and gastric reflux4.
Not only are there different types of asthma, but it can vary in how bad (severe) it is6. If your symptoms are very bad, happen regularly and do not respond well to your current treatment, you may have severe asthma6. Having severe asthma may also result in an asthma attack6.
Is my asthma “normal”? Info
The answer is yes, as everyone who has asthma will experience it differently2 and what triggers one person’s asthma, may not trigger another’s. What is important is whether your asthma is normal for you. For instance, your asthma may get worse (or better) over time so if you find you are needing to use your reliever inhaler more often, it may mean that your asthma is not normal for you anymore. It may also indicate that your asthma is not under control – try and visit your doctor for a check-up.
For more information on what can cause your asthma and breathing to worsen, see ‘What can make my asthma worse?’ page.
What does having asthma mean for me? Info
Asthma can affect people very differently2. For some, it may not cause any issues at all but for others, they may have symptoms every day making daily life difficult6. If you don’t experience symptoms on a daily basis, it may mean that your asthma is under control – this should be your goal4! If you do experience symptoms daily, then your asthma may not be under control.6
To see how your asthma is affecting you, take the survey on our ‘Homepage’.
You may not just have asthma… Info
Did you know that quite often people who are diagnosed with asthma as a child can also have allergic rhinitis (hay fever) and eczema4,7? If you also have eczema and/or hay fever, it means your body produces a certain type of antibody called immunoglobulin E (IgE) in response to normally harmless allergens, such as pollen and dust mites8. If you haven’t been diagnosed by your doctor as having asthma, but have eczema and hay fever, it’s worth keeping an eye out on your symptoms, and tracking them, as sometimes they can be very similar to those of asthma and the conditions can be linked9.
Will I always have asthma? Info
Is having asthma serious? Info
For a lot of people, having asthma is not serious and doesn’t cause them many problems. However, for some people their asthma can be serious and they can suffer from asthma attacks which can, in rare cases be life threatening2. We must remember that having asthma can be serious – other chronic conditions aren’t thought of in the same way. Even if your asthma doesn’t bother you on a daily basis, do be aware that you are living with a potentially serious condition (which can be managed).
Asthma glossary – what’s what? Info
- Allergens – a substance that causes an allergic reaction11
- Wheezing – breath with a whistling or rattling sound in the chest, as a result of obstruction in the air passages12
- Inhaler – a portable device for administering a drug which is to be breathed in, used for relieving asthma13
- Peak flow meter – a small, hand-held device used to monitor a person's ability to breathe out air. It measures the airflow and degree of obstruction in the airways14
- Pet dander – dead skin from pets or animals (like dandruff)15
- Controlled – no asthma symptoms; no rescue inhaler use; no night-time or early morning awakening4
- Uncontrolled – regular asthma symptoms; limitation of daily activities; use of rescue inhaler; waking up during the night/early in the morning because of symptoms; reduced lung function4
- Trigger – things that bother your lungs and start or "trigger" your asthma symptoms16