An estimated 17 million people living in the United States have self-reported asthma. Asthma is a chronic disease marked by wheezing, chest tightness and/or shortness of breath.
Any of the symptoms below can be a sign of asthma:
• Excessive coughing while exercising or following exercise
• Shortness of breath
• Wheezing while breathing
• A tight feeling in the chest
If you or someone you know experiences the above conditions, consult an allergist. Your allergist will be able to tell you the causes of your symptoms. If allergies are left untreated they can develop into asthma, so it’s important to see an allergist when you first start experiencing problems.
Asthma symptoms are caused by the constriction (tightening of the muscles) and the inflammation (swelling and irritation) of the airways. Constriction and inflammation of the airways and increased mucosa make it difficult and sometimes impossible to breathe.
What causes asthma?
Allergens, irritants, respiratory infections and/or exercise can trigger asthma symptoms. Asthma is often placed in different categories according to symptom “triggers.”
Allergic asthma is triggered by allergic reactions to allergens such as pet dander, dust or dust mite, mold or pollen.
Seasonal asthma is triggered by seasonal allergic reactions to allergens such as trees, grasses or weeds.
Non-allergic asthma is triggered by irritants in the air that you breathe such as tobacco smoke, wood smoke, room deodorizers, fresh paint, perfume, etc.
Exercise-induced asthma is triggered by exercise or physical activity.
Nocturnal asthma can occur in a patient with any type of asthma, though the asthma symptoms will increase or worsen at night.
For treatment, it is important to recognize asthma “triggers.” Airway inflammation may always be there, even when you are seemingly symptom-free.
How is asthma treated?
Though there is not a cure for asthma, the symptoms can easily be controlled through physician recommended medications and trigger avoidance. New medications make it possible to lead a normal life; there are long-term controller medications that help treat and control asthma. Avoiding the irritants and allergens that trigger asthma will
help prevent asthma symptoms as well. A high percentage of asthma patients suffer from allergies. Controlling those allergies is the first step to controlling their asthma.
What happens if my asthma goes untreated?
It is extremely important to seek medical attention for asthma. Airway inflammation is more likely to occur and become severe the longer asthma goes untreated. Asthma is not a medical condition that goes away. Not treating airway inflammation and constriction may
cause you to lose lung function; thus, seeking medical care is essential.
For those individuals with allergic asthma, identifying and treating your allergies is instrumental in treating your asthma. An allergist can help you determine your allergies and prescribe an effective treatment plan.
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What about children and asthma?
Asthma is the most common chronic illness among children. If a child's asthma is left untreated, it can result in loss of sleep, exercise limitations, absenteeism, emergency room visits and, in a few cases, death.
The good news?
Just like adult asthma, a child's asthma can be effectively treated with medications and “trigger” avoidance. Again, receiving medical help for asthma is essential.