Asthma is a disease that affects your lungs. It is one of the most common long-term diseases of children, but adults can have asthma, too. Asthma causes wheezing, breathlessness, chest tightness, and coughing at night or early in the morning. If you have asthma, you have it all the time, but you will have asthma attacks only when something bothers your lungs.
Do You Have Asthma?
Having a doctor check how well your lungs work and check for allergies can help you find out if you have asthma. During a checkup, a doctor will ask if you cough a lot, especially at night. He or she will also ask whether your breathing problems are worse after physical activity or at certain times of year. The doctor will then ask about chest tightness, wheezing, and colds lasting more than 10 days. He or she will ask whether anyone in your family has or has had asthma, allergies, or other breathing problems. Finally, the doctor will ask questions about your home and whether you have missed school or work or have trouble doing certain things. Your doctor may also do a breathing test, called spirometry, to find out how well your lungs are working by testing how much air you can breathe out after taking a very deep breath before and after you use asthma medicine.
Keep Track of Symptoms
Write down your symptoms in an asthma diary each day. Recording symptoms can help you recognize when you need to make treatment adjustments according to your asthma action plan. Use your asthma diary to record things like shortness of breath or whistling sounds when you exhale (wheezing), disturbed sleep caused by shortness of breath, coughing or wheezing, chest tightness or pain, and quick-relief (rescue) inhaler use — record when you need to use your quick-relief inhaler, such as albuterol (Proventil HFA, Ventolin HFA, ProAirHFA), and write down how many puffs you take. Other things to take note in your asthma diary are:
– Disruptions to work, school, exercise or other day-to-day activities caused by asthma symptoms.
– Asthma symptoms during exercise.
– Changes in color of phlegm you cough up.
– Hay fever symptoms such as sneezing and runny nose.
– Anything that seems to trigger asthma flare-ups.
Work With Your Doctor
Asthma symptoms and severity are always changing. Following your plan will help you avoid asthma attacks and minimize the disruptions caused by asthma symptoms. Meet with your doctor regularly to review your treatment. Take your asthma diary and action plan with you so that you can review them with your doctor and make any needed changes to your treatment plan. Here are some reasons why you might need to adjust your medications:
– If you’re still having bothersome symptoms even though you’re following your plan, talk to your doctor about possibly increasing or changing your medications.
– If your asthma is well-controlled, you may be able to reduce the amount of medication you take.
– If you have seasonal allergy triggers, your asthma medication may need to be increased at certain times of the year.
Effective asthma treatment requires routinely tracking symptoms and measuring how well your lungs are working. Taking an active role in managing your asthma treatment will help you maintain better long-term asthma control, prevent asthma attacks and avoid long-term problems.