Asthma is a chronic inflammatory lung disease that inflames and narrows the airways. Approximately 30 million people in the United States suffer from asthma, of which 9 million are children, and the prevalence continues to rise. For asthmatics, understanding and managing their disease is key to reducing flare-ups.
People with asthma have sensitive airways that easily become irritated and inflamed. There is no cure, but it is treatable with medication and avoidance of triggers.
Triggers are objects that can cause airways to overreact, becoming swollen and producing extra mucus. The airways also become overly sensitive and can cause the muscles around the airways to spasm (bronchoconstriction). Some common triggers include pollens, animal dander, dust mites, mold, anxiety, exercise, viruses, bacteria, tobacco smoke or pollutants.
Some common signs of asthma include chest tightness, wheezing, breathlessness and coughing. Not everyone has the same symptoms, but usually at least one of these is present.
Asthma is treated by two types of medication: Rescue (reliever) and preventive (controller). Rescue medications work very quickly and should only be used as needed for immediate relief. Preventive medications are prescribed for persistent asthma, and they help keep asthma under control and reduce symptoms. Preventive medications need to be taken daily as prescribed.
The best way to control your asthma is to take an active role in managing the disease, take your meds and avoid your triggers. Work with your physician and health care providers to identify these triggers. Also follow a written asthma management plan.
Martinez is a registered respiratory therapist at Sutter Gould Medical Foundation.