What is asthma?
With asthma you can experience asthma attacks in which you have trouble breathing, you're wheezing and coughing. This is caused by the small tubes that distribute the air through your lungs tightening and closing up, making it harder for the air to flow through.
Quite often there are clear factors causing the attack:
- Cold air
- Physical exercise
- Things you're allergic to
- Smoking and second hand smoke
- Air pollution
What are symptoms of asthma?
Asthma patients sometimes have no symptoms for weeks on end, after which they can have a few weeks of symptoms. For example, they can be coughing at night for weeks after a cold or after the flu.
- Trouble breathing
- Shortness of breath
- Being out of breath quickly, panting
- Coughing, with or without mucus
Is asthma serious and should I see a doctor?
Asthma attacks are very bothersome and can be scary, when you have the feeling you're not getting enough air. Asthma is a rather common disease and usually isn't serious, but it's possible to have an attack so severe that you actually can't get enough air, which can be dangerous. A doctor can prescribe medication to prevent attacks and to stop an ongoing attack. It's important to see a doctor when you suspect you have asthma.
Contact a doctor:
- To assess the asthma and prescribe treatment to prevent attacks
- To get medication to stop ongoing attacks
Immediately contact a doctor or an emergency department:
- When you have an attack that won't stop, despite medication
- When you have a severe attack in which you really have the feeling you're suffocating
What can I do about asthma myself?
All asthma patients:
- Avoid things that cause attacks
- Don't smoke and avoid second hand smoke
- Get plenty of physical exercise for a good physical condition
- When exercise provokes an attack, try light exercise like walking and cycling.
- Try to breathe through your nose when you're in a cold environment, the nose warms the air before it enters your lungs
During an asthma attack:
- Use your prescribed medication
- Don't strain yourself physically
- Make sure you're not alone
How does asthma affect my body?
In the lungs the air is distributed through the lungs through very small tubes. In asthma patients these tubes become a bit inflamed which causes them to tighten, which makes it harder for the air to flow through. This causes asthma patients to be out of breath and feel shortness of breath more quickly.
In certain situations asthma symptoms can suddenly severely increase. These situations are called asthma attacks. During an asthma attack the muscles around the small tubes in the lungs tighten, causing them to become narrower, making it harder for the air to flow through. Because of the inflammation, the tubes also produce more mucus, which causes them to become even narrower. This causes the patient to have trouble breathing and to feel shortness of breath.
The exact cause of asthma hasn't been found yet. It has been found that asthma occurs within families and also that certain occupations are at risk to develop asthma. A lot more is known about the causes of asthma attacks. Certain things can irritate the tubes in the lungs, which causes them to contract en tighten, to protect the lungs against harmful things. In asthma this reaction is stronger than it should be.
Allergies often play a role in asthma. A lot of asthma patients have one or more allergies. Asthma is often associated with common allergies like hay fever, animals and dustmite.
Asthma unfortunately can't be cured. There is medication that can help you have less asthma attacks. This medication causes the tubes in the lungs to relax and produce less mucus, making it easier to breathe.