Asthma is a common disease of the airways that affects both adults and children. It is characterised by asthma symptoms that come and go due to bronchospasms and reversible airway obstruction. It can range from mild to severe, and, as with any disease of the airways, it is important to keep symptoms well managed and under control to avoid ‘asthma attacks’.
The symptoms and signs of asthma include shortness of breath, wheezing, coughing and feeling that the chest is tight. Some people find their asthma is worse at night-time, and they may wake up coughing.
The exact cause of asthma is often not known, however, several theories exist. There may be a genetic component to asthma diagnosis, or it may be due to environmental factors. There is also a hygiene hypothesis that suggests that increasing cleanliness in our home environments means children are not exposed to as much bacteria. By converse example, lower rates of asthma are seen in households with pets. Some people find their asthma is worse in cold weather, and asthma can be exacerbated by respiratory tract infections, including colds.
Asthma can often be diagnosed from the signs and symptoms you describe to a doctor or other healthcare professional. A history of discrete episodes of wheezing, coughing and breathlessness often points to an asthma diagnosis. However, serial readings can be taken using a peak flow meter if there is any doubt about the diagnosis. More in depth tests can be carried out by respiratory doctors, although this is often not required. A good response to treatment can also help with confirming an asthma diagnosis. In children, the presence of a persistent cough, especially at night (an ‘asthma cough’), is a strong indicator of asthma.
Allergic asthma is asthma triggered by a particular allergen. This could be pollen, pet dander or dust mites. Some allergens, such as pollen, are more difficult to avoid. However, if an allergen can be avoided, then this is advisable. Anti-histamines that reduce the body’s response to allergens may be of benefit if you have allergic asthma.
If you have concerns about asthma, you can talk to a pharmacist at Pharmacy Planet today. We stock a range of asthma medications and can arrange delivery to your door.