Has spring left you breathless?

What is asthma?

Asthma is defined as a chronic inflammatory disease of the air-way that causes shortness of breath, tightness in the chest, coughing, and wheezing. Currently there is no cure for asthma. However there are many strategies that can be implemented to live symptom free.

Who is affected by asthma?

Anyone can develop asthma, although it is usually diagnosed in young people (3 years of age). Currently approximately 3 million Canadians have asthma.

How do I know if I have asthma?

If you are experiencing symptoms of asthma (wheezing, trouble breathing, persistent cough or recurrent “chest” infections) then you should speak to your doctor. They will be able to diagnose asthma and rule out other conditions such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, pneumonia, and heart disease.

Risk factors for asthma:

  • Close relative with allergies/ asthma.
  • Wheezing without a cold
  • Allergic rhinitis (inflammation in the nose)
  • Eczema

What causes asthma symptoms?

People with asthma experience trouble breathing when they are exposed to asthma triggers. The lining of the airway becomes inflamed and may produce more mucous. The muscles around the airway become sensitive and start to tighten, causing the airways to narrow. The more the airways narrow the more difficult it is to breathe.

What are asthma triggers?

Asthma triggers can increase inflammation in the lungs and worsen asthma symptoms.

Triggers include:

  • Dust Mites
  • Household pets
  • Moulds
  • Viral infections
  • Smoke
  • Cold air
  • Perfumes

It is important to find out what your asthma triggers are so they can be avoided. Speak to your pharmacist for advice on how to avoid asthma triggers.

How is asthma treated?

Typically two different types of inhalers are used together to manage asthma.

A “reliever” inhaler is used to rapidly open the airways and stops asthma symptoms immediately. (ie: Ventolin)

A “controller” inhaler reduces inflammation in the airways and prevents asthma attacks from occurring. (ie: Flovent). Controllers must be taken every day. You will know that your controller medication is working because you will have fewer asthma symptoms over time and require the use of the “reliever” inhaler less. Speak to your pharmacist if you are unsure how to use your inhalers.

How do I know if my asthma is under control?

To see if your asthma is under control answer the following questionnaire.

1.Do you cough, wheeze or have a tight chest because of your asthma? (4 or more days a week)

2. Does coughing, wheezing, or chest tightness wake you up at night? (1 or more times per week)

3. Do you stop exercising because of your asthma? (in the past 3 months)

4. Do you ever miss work or school because of your asthma? (in the past 3 months)

5. Do you use your blue inhaler 4 or more times per week? (except one dose per day for exercise)

If you answered “yes” to one or more questions your asthma is not under control. Ask your pharmacist about what you can do to feel better.

How do I monitor my asthma over time?

An asthma action plan helps you and your doctor to create a personalized program for managing your asthma. This plan will help you to recognize the early warning signs and increase asthma medications or seek emergency help when required. See your pharmacist for an asthma action plan template to bring to your doctor.

Ask your pharmacist for more information on asthma today!

For more information visit www.asthma.ca

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