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Asthma is a long-term condition that affects your breathing. It causes the airways that lead to the lungs to swell.
People with asthma may have asthma attacks. During an asthma attack, the airways tighten and become narrower. This makes it hard to breathe, and you may wheeze or cough. If you have a bad asthma attack, you may need emergency care.
Asthma affects people in different ways. Some people only have asthma attacks during allergy season, or when they breathe in cold air, or when they exercise. Others have many bad attacks that send them to the doctor often.
When you have asthma, you may:
Symptoms may start soon after you're around things (triggers) that cause your asthma attacks. This is an early phase response. Or they may start several hours after exposure (late phase response). A late phase response can make it harder to figure out what triggers your symptoms.
Symptoms can be mild or severe. You may have symptoms daily or just now and then. Or you may have something in between.
Some people have symptoms that get worse at night, such as a cough and shortness of breath.
Certain things can make asthma symptoms worse. These are called triggers. When you are around a trigger, an asthma attack is more likely.
Common triggers include:
Here are some ways to avoid a few common triggers:
There are two parts to treating asthma, which are outlined in your asthma action plan. The goals are to:
The asthma plan also helps you track your symptoms and know how well the treatment is working.
Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse call line if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.
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Current as of: June 9, 2019
Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine & Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine & Elizabeth T. Russo MD - Internal Medicine
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