Asthma makes the sides of the airways in your lungs inflamed or swollen, and is caused by allergic or irritant reactions to things like smoke, dust, molds, pollen, or animal dander. Millions of people in the U.S. suffer from the condition; many are children and young adults.
Symptoms include cough, wheezing (a whistling noise when you breathe), chest tightness and shortness of breath. Asthma can be a serious illness that can lead to disability or even death if not treated properly. Asthma is usually a lifelong condition, although symptoms may be more or less severe at different times.
Prevent asthma attacks by staying away from things that make your asthma worse.
- Don’t smoke; stay away from those who do.
- Avoid dust mites by removing rugs or cleaning regularly. Encase pillows and mattresses in dust-proof covers.
- Avoid animal dander, especially cat hair. Keep pets outdoors when possible.
- Cockroaches can trigger asthma; have them exterminated.
- Remove indoor molds and avoid living in damp spaces.
- Avoid outdoor pollens during seasonal outbreaks. Use a HEPA air filter indoors.
- Avoid dusty environments and heating with wood stoves.
- Get a flu shot every year.
- Avoid close contact with those who have colds.
Asthma treatment must be carefully guided by an experienced clinician. Your may be prescribed one or more medications based on the severity of your condition. Common treatments include:
- Short-acting or quick relief inhalers such as albuterol (Ventolin, Proventil). These are among the most common treatment, and often the only one needed for very mild asthma.
- Long-acting bronchodilators such as salmeterol (Serevent).
Inhaled corticosteroids such as fluticasone (Flovent) or budesonide (Pulmicort).
- Combinations of long-acting bronchodilators and corticosteroids (Advair).
- Leukotriene modifiers such as montelukast (Singulair) or zafirlukast (Accolate).
- Corticosteroid oral medication, such as prednisone is usually used for only a few days during an exacerbation of severe symptoms.
Most people with moderate to severe asthma will need two or three different medications to help control their condition. These need to be reviewed and closely monitored by your provider.