wikiHow to Recognize Asthma

Two Parts:Identifying the Symptoms of AsthmaGetting a Diagnosis and Treatment

Asthma is a very common breathing disorder characterized by difficulty breathing, wheezing, and shortness of breath.[1] Any person can have or develop asthma throughout the course of her life.[2] Doctors are unsure of the cause of asthma, but think it’s a combination of environmental and genetic factors.[3] Asthma cannot be cured, but can be controlled. It can also be dangerous if not treated, and recognizing the symptoms can help you see a doctor and get treatment as soon as possible.[4]

Part 1
Identifying the Symptoms of Asthma

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    Be aware of risk factors for asthma. Doctors are unsure of what causes asthma, but they do know that certain factors increase your risk for developing the disease.[5] Knowing your risk for asthma can help you more effectively identify symptoms, see a doctor, and get treatment.[6]
    • Having a blood relative, including a parent or sibling with asthma, can increase your risk.[7]
    • Having allergic conditions such as atopic dermatitis or allergic rhinitis can increase your risk.[8]
    • Being overweight can increase your risk.[9]
    • Being a smoker or exposed to secondhand smoke can increase your risk.[10]
    • Working with or being exposed to exhaust fumes or other pollutants can increase your risk. This includes occupational triggers such as chemicals present in farming or hairdressing.[11]
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    Identify potential symptoms. Asthma has many signs and symptoms, some of which may be severe. Identifying potential symptoms that you have can help you get a diagnosis and treatment as soon as possible.[12] The following asthma symptoms may be persistent or intermittent, and you may notice them only at certain times, such as when you are exercising:[13]
    • Shortness of breath.
    • Tightness or pain in your chest.
    • Sleeping difficult or disturbances that stem from shortness of breath, coughing, or wheezing.
    • A high-pitched whistling or wheezing sound when inhaling or exhaling. Wheezing is an especially common sign of asthma in children.
    • Symptoms that worsen when you have the flu or a cold.
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    Observe your respiratory health closely. It’s important to pay attention to your body and respiratory functions for any symptoms of asthma. These signs, such as coughing when running or wheezing during work, can indicate the disease, especially if they don’t go away or get worse.[14] This can also help your doctor effectively treat and control you asthma.
    • Pay attention to your breath when you exercise. If you experience any symptoms when you exercise, you may have sports-induced asthma. Signs may get worse in cold and dry air.[15]
    • Notice if you have symptoms only at work, which can indicate occupational asthma. Chemical fumes, gases and dust might trigger symptoms of asthma.[16]
    • See if your symptoms are worse at certain times of the year or around certain animals. You may have allergy-induced asthma that is triggered by certain pollens, pet dander, or even cockroaches.[17]

Part 2
Getting a Diagnosis and Treatment

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    See your doctor. If you observe or experience any of the signs or symptoms of asthma and/ or are at risk for the disease, see your doctor as soon as possible. Early diagnosis is important to help treat and manage the disease.
    • Your doctor may diagnose asthma only after she rules out other possible causes for your symptoms.[18]
    • Your doctor may use a variety of tests to help diagnose asthma.[19]
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    Describe your symptoms to your doctor. It’s important to recognize your specific symptoms and write them down before you see your doctor. Not only will this help you best explain how you’re feeling, but will also ensure that you don’t forget to include any symptoms and how they affect you.[20]
    • Tell your doctor how your symptoms feel. For example, if you’re experiencing pain in your chest, use descriptive words like sharp, dull, stabbing, or throbbing. You can use these kinds of terms to describe many physical symptoms.[21]
    • Mention how long you’ve had your symptoms. The more specific date you can pinpoint, the easier it may be for your doctor to figure out what is causing your symptoms.[22]
    • Note how frequently you have or notice symptoms. This information can also help your doctor figure out what’s causing your symptoms. For example, you could say “I feel symptoms every day, especially after I work out,” or “I only notice my symptoms occasionally, like every few days.”
    • Let your doctor know about any changes in your life, such as increased stress.[23]
    • Provide your doctor a list of your medications, which may also exacerbate asthma.[24]
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    Get tests and a diagnosis. If your doctor suspects that you have asthma, she may order tests after conducting your physical exam, asking a series of questions about your symptoms, and ruling out other causes. These tests may be the only way to confirm a diagnosis of asthma.[25]
    • Your doctor may order breathing test called spirometry, which estimates the narrowing of bronchial tubes by seeing how much air you can exhale after a deep breath.[26]
    • Your doctor may order that you use a device called a peak flow meter to track your ability to exhale.[27] Low readings can indicate asthma or a worsening case of it.[28] Your doctor will prescribe the meter and give you instructions on how to track your breath.[29]
    • Your doctor may prescribe using a bronchodilator, including albuterol, before and after these tests.[30] If your respiratory function is better with the bronchodilator, you probably have asthma.[31]
    • Your doctor may also order a methacholine challenge. Methacholine is an asthma trigger and may help your doctor more effectively diagnose asthma.[32]
    • Your doctor could suggest a nitric oxide test, though it is not used often. This test can measure the amount of nitric oxide in your breath, which may indicate asthma.[33]
    • Your doctor may also order an imaging procedure such as an X-ray, CT scan, or and MRI. These will help your doctor examine the tissues of your lungs and nose cavities that can cause or exacerbate respiratory issues.[34]
    • Your doctor may order an allergy skin test, which can identify allergens that cause asthma symptoms.[35]
    • Your doctor may order a test called sputum eosinophils in which looks for a certain type of white blood cell called eosinophils in the mixture of mucus and saliva you discharge when coughing.[36]
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    Get treatment for asthma. If your doctor confirms a diagnosis of asthma with tests, she will prescribe a course of treatment based the severity of the disease. There are many different treatment and management options for asthma.[37]
    • Treatment for asthma revolves around prevention, reducing exposure to triggers and using an inhaler such as albuterol to control flare-ups.[38]
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    Take prescription medication. Medication is often the cornerstone of asthma treatment. A prescription medication from your doctor can help control the disease under daily control and prevent asthma attacks.[39]
    • Your doctor might prescribe an inhaled corticosteroid such as fluticasone, budesonide, ciclesonide, or mometasone.[40] It may take daily use over a longer period of time for these medications to have their full effect and they come with few side effects.[41]
    • Your doctor might prescribe a long-acting beta agonist such as salmeterol or fomoterol.[42] These can open your airways, but may also increase your risk of a severe asthma attack. You may need to take them with a corticosteroid.[43]
    • You may also use a combination inhaler such as fluticasone-salmeterol, or mometason-fomoterol.[44]
    • Your doctor may prescribe leukotriene modifier such as montelukast, zafirlukast, or zileuton to help relieve symptoms for up to 24 hours.[45] Use these drugs carefully, however, as they are linked to psychological reactions including agitation and aggression.[46]
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    Use allergy medication to control asthma. Some allergy medications may help alleviate the symptoms of asthma, especially if they are cause by allergies.[47] Talk to your doctor about using this treatment for your asthma.[48]
    • Allergy shots may help your body decrease its reaction to allergens over time.[49]
    • Oral and nasal antihistamines, including fluticasone and diphenhydramine may help relieve asthma symptoms.[50] Ask your doctor to prescribe you an antihistamine or recommend an over the counter version.[51]
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    Avoid your triggers. Asthma is often exacerbated by exposure to certain environmental factors. Staying away from your can help you to avoid asthma attacks.[52]
    • Using an air conditioner can help control asthma because it reduces the amount of airborne pollen found indoors.[53]
    • Minimizing the dust in your home with measures frequent vacuuming or removal of carpet and covering mattress, pillows, and box springs in a dust proof cover can help control asthma.[54]
    • Clean your home regularly to get rid of dust, pet danger, mold spores and pollen.[55]
    • Reducing pet dander can help reduce symptoms of asthma. Bath your pets regularly or avoid pets with fur or feathers.[56]
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    Maintain a healthy lifestyle. Certain conditions such as obesity and heart disease may make asthma worse. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle that controls these factors can help alleviate or reduce asthma symptoms.[57]
    • Getting regular exercise can strengthen your heart and lungs. It may also help control your weight, which can make symptoms of asthma worse.[58]
    • Eating healthy, balanced, and regular meals can help keep you from experiencing asthma related to obesity. In fact, eating plenty of fruits and vegetables may help lung function and reduce asthma symptoms.[59]

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Categories: Asthma