Wheezing – a high-pitched sound coming from the chest while breathing
A feeling of not being able to get enough air or being short of breath
A feeling of tightness in the chest
You don’t have to have all of these symptoms to have asthma.
People with asthma have sensitive airways in their lungs which react to triggers, causing a ‘flare-up’. A sudden or severe asthma flare-up is sometimes called an asthma attack. In a flare-up, the muscles around the airway squeeze tight, the airways swell and become narrow and there is more mucus. These things make it harder to breathe.
An asthma flare-up can become serious if not treated properly, even in someone whose asthma is usually mild or well controlled. A severe flare-up needs urgent medical treatment – your doctor or the hospital emergency department.
Understanding how asthma affects your lungs, and what your medication does can really help you stay in control. As the causes of asthma are not fully understood, usually people with asthma often have a family history of asthma, eczema and hay fever. Research has shown that exposure to tobacco smoke (especially as a baby or young child), obesity and some workplace chemicals can increase the risk of developing asthma.
Knowing your own body and your asthma is important – the sooner you notice any changes, the faster you can respond to them and avoid an attack. Usually people monitor their asthma using their symptoms, which is best for most people, but a few will choose to use their peak flow measurement as well.
Managing your asthma means taking control of your health so that you can live a full and active life. While asthma can’t be cured, for most people it can be well controlled, which means hardly any symptoms or flare-ups, or limits to your lifestyle. With the correct knowledge, skills and medication you can do just about anything - asthma shouldn't stop you!
What you’re aiming for is to get control of your asthma. An Asthma Action Plan is a set of instructions written with your doctor or nurse that helps you to stay in control of your asthma. It’s usually on a piece of paper, but there are also apps or electronic versions that might be more useful for you.
Your written Asthma Action Plan outlines:
What medication to take.
How to tell if your asthma is getting worse.
What you should do if your symptoms are getting worse.
What to do if you have an asthma attack.
Having an action plan has been proven to:
reduce your chance of needing to go to hospital, or for an urgent doctor visit
improve your lung function
reduce the number of days off work or school due to asthma
Remember, your asthma changes over time so your plan should be reviewed at least once a year to make sure it’s still useful.
Book in now to discuss with your favourite GP.
Get a plan: there are different types of asthma action plans, so choose whichever one is best for you.