Asthma can cause swelling and constriction of the airways, as well as increased production of mucus, leading to symptoms such as shortness of breath, coughing, wheezing during exhalation, and difficulty breathing. While asthma may only be a minor inconvenience for some people, others may experience significant difficulties that disrupt their daily activities and could potentially result in a life-threatening asthma attack.
Although asthma cannot be cured, it is possible to manage its symptoms. It is important to work with your doctor to monitor your symptoms and make adjustments to your treatment as needed, as the signs and symptoms of asthma can change over time.
Symptoms of asthma might differ from person to person. You might only experience symptoms occasionally such as during exercise, or constantly.
Signs and symptoms of asthma include:
- Difficulty of breathing
- Pain or tightness of the chest
- In children, wheezing during exhalation
- Episodes of coughing or wheezing that are made worse by a respiratory illness, such as the flu or a cold
- Sleeping issues brought on by coughing, wheezing, or shortness of breath
Here are signs to watch out for that may indicate your asthma is getting worse:
- Growing difficulty breathing as indicated by a peak flow meter, a tool used to assess how effectively your lungs are functioning.
- More persistent and bothersome asthma signs and symptoms
- More frequent use of quick-relief inhalers.
Some persons experience an asthma attack or symptom flare-up when:
- Exercise-induced asthma, which possibly gets worse if the air is chilly and dry.
- Occupational asthma, aggravated at work by irritants such chemical vapors, gases, or dust
- Allergy-induced asthma, induced by airborne irritants including pollen, mold spores, cockroach feces, or skin and dry saliva flakes from animals (pet dander)
Call for emergency intervention if:
In some cases, asthma episodes can be life-threatening. It is important to work with your doctor to determine the appropriate course of action if your symptoms worsen or if you require emergency care. Some signs of an asthma emergency include:
- Quickly worsening wheeze or shortness of breath
- The condition did not improve even after taking a quick-relief inhaler.
- Breathlessness when engaging in even light physical activity
Call your doctor if:
- Suspected asthma. Consult your doctor if you frequently cough or wheeze for more than a few days or if you experience any other asthma signs or symptoms. Early asthma treatment may help avoid long-term lung damage and slow the progression of the condition.
- Primary management of asthma. If you are aware that you have asthma, consult with your doctor to manage it. Good long-term control improves your day-to-day well-being and can stop a potentially fatal asthma episode.
- Worsening of symptoms. If your medication doesn’t appear to be reducing your symptoms or if you need to use your quick-relief inhaler more frequently, speak with your doctor straight away.
Avoid taking more medication than is recommended without first talking to your doctor. Overusing asthma medications can have negative side effects and can aggravate asthma.
- Frequent follow ups. Over time, asthma frequently evolves. Talk about your symptoms and any necessary therapy modifications with your doctor on a frequent basis.
Although the exact cause of why some people develop asthma while others do not is unknown, it is most likely a result of a combination of inherited and environmental variables.
Various irritants and chemicals that cause allergies (allergens) can cause asthma signs and symptoms to appear. Each person has distinct triggers for their asthma, which can include:
- Infections of the lungs, including the common cold
- Pollutants and irritants in the air, such smoke
- Allergens that are airborne, such as pollen, dust mites, mold spores, pet dander, or cockroach waste particles
- Physical activity
- Cold air
- A few pharmaceuticals, such as aspirin, beta blockers, and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDs).
- Strong emotions and stress
- Some foods and beverages, such as shrimp, dried fruit, processed potatoes, beer, and wine, contain sulfites and preservatives.
- Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD), a disorder when your throat becomes irritated by stomach acids
It is believed that a variety of variables raise your risk of acquiring asthma. They consist of:
- Smoking or secondhand smoke
- Having a parent or sibling with asthma
- Having hay fever, which produces a runny nose, congestion, and itchy eyes, or another allergic disorder such atopic dermatitis, which results in red, itchy skin.
- Exposure to stressors at work, such as those used in manufacturing, farming, and hair care
- Being exposed to smog or exhaust fumes
Statistics indicate that individuals who are born with the female gender assigned to them at birth have a higher likelihood of developing asthma. Additionally, research shows that asthma is more prevalent among Black individuals compared to other racial groups.