Medically defined as a chronic, inflammatory airway condition, asthma causes attacks of wheezing, shortness of breath, chest tightness and coughing. Symptoms can be controlled, but asthma is a lifelong condition, not a temporary one as many people mistakenly believe.
According to asthma.org.uk, an estimated 5.4 million Brits have been diagnosed with asthma. One third of that number are children under the age of eighteen.
As an attack occurs, the airways become inflamed, the muscles constrict (tighten), and the lining of the bronchial tubes becomes swollen. This leads to restricted air flow and may result in wheezing or gasping. It will feel as if your chest is "tight" and breathing will become difficult.
Allergy-causing substances are called "triggers" and can affect the patient in various ways. Common triggers include: animals (fur or saliva), dust, changes in weather (especially cold air), chemicals in air or food, exercise, mould, pollen, respiratory infections such as cold or flu, strong emotions (fear, anger, stress, sadness), tobacco smoke and some medications such as aspirin.
First, determine your triggers, then eliminate or limit your exposure to them. Your doctor may prescribe solution medications for both long-term asthma control and for treatment of sudden attacks. These medications can come in the form of pills, inhalers, liquids to be inhaled through a nebuliser (breathing machine for asthmatics), or even shots.
Many people falsely believe that if they have no symptoms, then they must not have asthma or that is only "temporary". This can prove very dangerous in the long run and may even lead to death. Sometimes acute or chronic bronchitis is mistakenly diagnosed as asthma. Speak with your GP in order to form a treatment plan specific for you and your condition.