Many people believe that asthma is a condition that presents itself during childhood, however it can appear at any age. It’s because of this that many people fail to seek help for their condition, passing it off as something else. Knowing what the symptoms of asthma are could help you to recognise it if you have it, prompting you to seek help from your doctor.
What is asthma?
Asthma is a relatively common condition which affects people in different ways. Its effects are long-term and can include breathlessness, coughing, wheezing and the feeling of a tight chest. It is caused by the inflammation of the bronchi, tubes within the chest which carry air in and out of the lungs. People who suffer asthma generally feel ok most of the time, but their condition can be triggered by a number of factors including:
- Cigarette smoke
- Colds and other viruses
- Dust mites
- Pet hair
Symptoms of asthma
If you are concerned that you may have asthma, it’s important that you discuss your symptoms with your doctor. You may have asthma if:
- You make a wheezing sound when you breathe
- Your chest feels tight, as though there’s a tight band around it
- Persistent coughing, especially at certain trigger points
- Shortness of breath
You may wish to monitor your symptoms over time, noting when they worsen. You may find that your symptoms are more severe when you’re at work, when you’ve been exercising or when you’re around animals. Knowing what aggravates your condition can help you to manage it, helping to make your attacks less frequent. The NHS has an interactive asthma self-assessment tool, which could help you identify if you have possible asthma.
An ‘asthma attack’ can happen when asthma symptoms worsen, often for a short period of time. They can be serious, although uncommon, but it’s important to keep an eye out for symptoms. If your symptoms deteriorate suddenly, your regular medication becomes ineffective or you find it extremely difficult to breathe, you should contact your doctor immediately, or dial 999 in more severe cases.
In order to diagnose asthma, your doctor will need to perform a series of tests, including spirometry, which will be able to measure your lung capacity. It can take some time to diagnose asthma, which is why keeping a record of your symptoms is important to ensure a swifter diagnosis and treatment.
The good news is that once you have been diagnosed with asthma, you can then begin to treat it to ensure that you can carry on with your daily activities as normal. The most common treatment methods include inhalers, which carry medication to help open your airways to help you breathe easier. Spacers are also used, which deliver the medication more slowly, and are particularly useful for children who may struggle with typical inhalers.
Support for asthma sufferers
If you have asthma, or are the parent of a child who does, you may wish to seek support from one of the UK’s leading asthma charities. Asthma UK provides support to the 5 million people in the UK who suffer from asthma, including advice on what to do when faced with an asthma attack. They also organise fundraising events and awareness days to help educate others about asthma.
If you’d like further information about asthma, there is an extensive resource available on the NHS website, as well as details about treatment and diagnosis if you have any concerns.