Asthma is a condition that causes the air passages in the lungs to become inflamed, red and swollen. This inflammation creates sensitivity in the air passages to many different common substances, triggering asthma symptoms.
During an asthma attack, airways swell, surrounding muscles tighten and normal mucus secretions become trapped. Other common symptoms of asthma include:
- chest tightness
- excess mucus production
- shortness of breath
Living Well With Asthma
Finding out you have asthma is going to change your life. The good news is that asthma treatments have improved dramatically over the years, and you can expect to enjoy an active, healthy life with asthma. Many newer medicines work so well that it is possible to go for very long periods of time without any symptoms at all. The impact of asthma on life can be minimized with some simple steps:
- Asthma isn’t a secret. Letting your co-workers, friends and teachers know you have asthma will put them all on your team for coping with this illness. Share your asthma treatment plan with them so they know not to smoke around you, and what you would like them to do if you have an attack.
- Be sure to take your medicines according to your doctor’s instructions, even when you aren’t experiencing any symptoms, to keep feeling your best. Treatments to control asthma generally include long term control medications for regular use and rescue medications to quickly relieve symptoms during an attack. If your asthma is allergy-induced, treatment may also include allergy shots.
- Bring your rescue medication wherever you go, so it will be on hand if you need it.
- Cover your nose and mouth with a scarf or mask in winter weather if cold air triggers your attacks.
- Pay attention to what triggers your attacks and try to avoid those substances. Common triggers include cockroaches, dust mites, pollen, mold and smoke. Keeping your house clean with low humidity and running the air conditioner will make it a safe environment for asthma.
- Relax. Stress is a common asthma trigger and learning to relax can reduce your symptoms. Some great ways to relax include guided imagery, listening to calming music, meditation and yoga.
Asthma Life Stories
If you have just discovered that you have asthma, you are not alone. About 300 million people worldwide are coping with asthma. Some stories of people who are living happy and active lives with this condition include:
- A 10 year old boy from India, now living in Switzerland, has been living with asthma since the age of three. His doctors and his mother showed him how to control his asthma. Since his symptoms are not chronic, he uses a rescue inhaler as needed and does not have to use daily control medication. Since beginning treatment, his attacks have become less frequent. He now lives a normal life, enjoying skateboarding and swimming.
- An athletic American woman suddenly developed asthma in her 40s. At first she was devastated and felt shut away from everything she loved to do. With treatment she is now active and out in the world again, enjoying biking, skateboarding and walking. Her son was also diagnosed with asthma and with medication is able to enjoy active participation in sports.
- A young American mother of two has had asthma for many years, but does not let it stop her from doing anything she wants to do. Recently she began taking classes in Tae Kwon Do, and has as much energy and drive as any other student. She takes her medicine as prescribed, and always carries her rescue inhaler in her purse. Usually she feels just fine during this strenuous class, but occasionally her asthma symptoms flare up. Because she is open with classmates and instructors about having asthma, she is comfortable heading to the locker room to grab her inhaler during class if she needs it.
American Lung Association of Michigan. (2009). School, life and asthma. Retrieved March 14, 2009, from the American Lung Association of Michigan Web site: http://www.getasthmahelp.org/teen_school.asp.
Health Information Publications. (2005). What is asthma? Retrieved March 14, 2009, from the eHealthMD.com Web site: http://www.ehealthmd.com/library/asthma/asthma_whatis.html.
World Heath Organization. (2009). Living a normal life with asthma. Retrieved March 14, 2009, from the World Health Organization Web Site: http://www.who.int/features/2007/asthma/en/index.html.
Yahoo! Inc. (2009). True life story: Asthma. Retrieved March 14, 2009, from the Yahoo! Health Web site: http://health.yahoo.com/asthma-videos/true-life-story-asthma/healthinationâ€”HNB10031_asthma_3.html.