This topic provides information about asthma in teens and adults. If you are looking for information about asthma in children age 12 and younger, see the topic
Asthma causes swelling and
Asthma affects people in different ways. Some people have asthma attacks only during allergy season, or when they breathe in cold air, or when they exercise. Others have many bad attacks that send them to the doctor often.
Even if you have few asthma attacks, you still need to treat your asthma. The swelling and inflammation in your airways can lead to permanent changes in your airways and harm your lungs.
Many people with asthma live active, full lives. Although asthma is a lifelong disease, treatment can help control it and help you stay healthy.
Experts don't know exactly what causes asthma. But there are some things we do know:
Symptoms of asthma can be mild or severe. You may have mild attacks now and then, or you may have severe symptoms every day. Or you may have something in between. How often you have symptoms can also change. When you have asthma, you may:
Your symptoms may be worse at night.
Severe asthma attacks can be life-threatening and need emergency treatment.
Along with doing a physical exam and asking about your health, your doctor may order lung function tests. These tests include:
You will need routine checkups with your doctor to keep track of your asthma and decide on treatment.
There are two parts to treating asthma, which are outlined in your asthma action plan. The goals are to:
If you need to use the quick-relief inhaler more often than usual, talk to your doctor. This may be a sign that your asthma is not controlled and can cause problems.
Asthma attacks can be life-threatening, but you may be able to prevent them if you follow a plan. Your doctor can teach you the skills you need to use your asthma action plan.
You can prevent some asthma attacks by avoiding those things that cause them. These are called triggers. A trigger can be:
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The cause of asthma isn't known. Health experts believe that inherited, environmental, and
Asthma may run in families (be inherited). If this is the case in your family, you may be more likely than other people to get long-lasting (chronic) inflammation in the airways.
In some people, an
Studies show that exposure to allergens such as
Environmental factors and today's germ-conscious lifestyle may play a role in the development of asthma. Some experts believe that there are more cases of asthma because of pollution and less exposure to certain types of bacteria or infections.
Asthma in adults also can be related to exposure to substances at work. This is called
Symptoms of asthma can be mild or severe. You may have no symptoms, severe symptoms every day, or something in between. How often you have symptoms can also change. Symptoms of asthma may include:
Many people have symptoms that become worse at night (nocturnal asthma), such as a cough and shortness of breath.
In general, waking at night because of shortness of breath or a cough is a sign of poorly controlled asthma.
Asthma often begins during infancy or childhood, but it can start at any age. It may last throughout your life.
At times, the
Your airways narrow when they overreact to certain substances. These are known as asthma
When asthma symptoms suddenly occur, it is called an
Although some asthma attacks occur very suddenly, many become worse gradually over a period of several days. In general, you can take care of symptoms at home by following your
Asthma can raise your risk for complications from lung infections, such as acute bronchitis and pneumonia.
Even mild asthma may cause changes to the airway system. It may speed up and make worse the natural decrease in lung function that occurs as we age.
Some experts believe that asthma may raise your risk for
Asthma can occur for the first time during pregnancy, or it may change during pregnancy.
When asthma is properly controlled, a woman can have a normal pregnancy with little or no increased risk to herself or the baby. But if the asthma isn't well controlled, there are risks to the pregnant woman and the baby.
Many things can increase your risk for asthma. Some of these are not within your control. Others you can control.
The main things that put you at risk for getting asthma as an adult are ongoing (chronic) wheezing when you were a child and cigarette smoking.
Experts aren't yet sure:
Call 911 or other emergency services right away if:
Call your doctor now or seek immediate medical care if:
Call your doctor if:
If you have not been diagnosed with asthma but have mild asthma symptoms, call your doctor and make an appointment to be checked.
Watchful waiting is a "wait and see" approach. It may be okay as long as you follow your asthma action plan and stay within the
A diagnosis of asthma is based on your medical history, a physical exam, and lung function tests.
Asthma can be hard to diagnose because the symptoms vary widely. And asthma-like symptoms can also be caused by other conditions, such as a viral lung infection or a
You need to
During checkups, your doctor will ask about information you may have tracked in an
Based on the results, your asthma category may change, and your doctor may change the medicines you use or how much medicine you use.
If you have persistent asthma and take medicine every day, your doctor may ask about your exposure to substances (
It's important to treat asthma, because even mild asthma can damage your airways.
By following your treatment plan, you can meet your
You'll likely take several medicines to control your asthma and to prevent attacks. Your doctor may adjust your medicines depending on how well your asthma is controlled. Medicines include:
Inhalers deliver medicine directly to the lungs. To get the best asthma control possible, be sure you know how to use your inhaler. Use a
Be sure to
Being around asthma
If you have persistent asthma and react to
It's easy to underestimate how severe your symptoms are. You may not notice them until your lungs are functioning at 50% of your
Measuring PEF is a way to keep track of asthma symptoms at home. It can help you know when your lung function is getting worse before it drops to a dangerously low level. You can do this with a
Special considerations in treating asthma include:
If your asthma isn't improving, make an appointment with your doctor to:
If your medicine isn't controlling airway inflammation, your doctor will first check to see if you are using the inhaler correctly. If you are using it the right way, your doctor may increase the dosage or switch to another medicine. Or he or she may add a medicine to your treatment.
For severe asthma that cannot be controlled with medicines, bronchial thermoplasty may be an option. This treatment is being studied in
If you have a severe asthma attack (the
You may have to go to the hospital or an emergency room for treatment. Be sure to tell the emergency staff if you are pregnant.
At the hospital, you will probably receive inhaled beta2-agonists and corticosteroids. You may be given
Some people are at increased risk of death from asthma, such as people who have been admitted to an intensive care unit for asthma or who have needed a breathing tube (intubation) for asthma. If you are high-risk, seek medical care early when you have symptoms.
Although there is no certain way to prevent asthma, you can reduce
The goal is to reduce the number, length, and severity of asthma attacks. Start by avoiding your asthma
Common irritants in the air, such as tobacco smoke and air pollution, can trigger asthma attacks in some people. They include:
Exercise is an asthma trigger for some people. If you often have asthma attacks when you exercise, use your inhaler 10 to 30 minutes before you start the activity so you can avoid an attack.
Avoid exercising outdoors in cold weather. If you are outdoors in cold weather, wear a scarf around your face and breathe through your nose.
You can control the impact of asthma with an asthma action plan. A good action plan reminds you to take your daily controller medicines and to be aware of your symptoms and triggers. It also tells you how to make quick decisions about medicine and treatment when you need to.
In the case of allergy triggers, avoiding them will help control inflammation in the airways. If you have asthma triggered by an allergen, taking allergy medicine may help you manage the allergy. It may limit the allergy's effect on your asthma.
Taking medicines is an important part of asthma treatment. But because you may need to take more than one medicine, it can be hard to remember to take them. To help yourself remember, understand the reasons people don't take their asthma medicines. Then find
It's easy to underestimate how severe your symptoms are. You may not notice symptoms until your lungs are functioning at 50% of your personal best measurement.
Most people who have asthma can travel freely. But if you travel to remote areas and take part in intense physical activity, such as long hikes, you may be at increased risk for an asthma attack in an area where emergency help may be hard to find.
When traveling, keep your medicine with you, carry the prescription for it, and use it as prescribed. Also carry your asthma action plan so you know what medicines to take every day and what to do if you have an asthma attack.
Teens who have asthma may view the disease as cutting into their independence and setting them apart from their peers. Parents and other adults can offer support and encouragement to help teens stick with a treatment program. It's important to:
Medicine doesn't cure asthma. But it is an important part of managing it. Medicines for asthma treatment are used to:
Asthma medicines are divided into two groups: those for prevention and long-term control of inflammation and those that provide quick relief for asthma attacks.
Most medicines for asthma are inhaled. Inhaled medicines are used because a specific dose can be given directly to the
Doctors recommend using a
The most important asthma medicines are:
There are other long-term medicines for daily treatment. They include:
Other medicines may be given in some cases.
A quick-relief medicine, racepinephrine (Asthmanefrin), is available without a prescription. This medicine isn't used with an inhaler. It comes with an atomizer that delivers the medicine as a mist.
Be safe with medicine. Read and follow all instructions on the label.
Medicine treatment for asthma depends on your age and type of asthma, and how well the treatment is controlling your asthma symptoms.
Your doctor will work with you to help find the number and dose of medicines that work best.
One of the best tools for managing asthma is a daily controller medicine that has a corticosteroid ("steroid"). But some people worry about taking steroid medicines because of myths they've heard about them. If you're making a decision about a steroid inhaler,
At the start of asthma treatment, the number and dosage of medicines are chosen to get the asthma under control. Your doctor may start you at a higher dose within your asthma
Because quick-relief medicine quickly reduces symptoms, people sometimes overuse these medicines instead of using the slower-acting long-term medicines. But
You may have to take more than one medicine each day to manage your asthma. Help yourself remember when to take each medicine, such as taping a note to your refrigerator to remind yourself.
Tell your doctor about all the medicines you are taking, so he or she can choose asthma medicines that won't interfere with other medicines.
Some people only have symptoms during certain times of the year (seasonal asthma). If you know when you will most likely have symptoms, start using a medicine to decrease inflammation before the symptoms start.
If you have severe asthma, bronchial thermoplasty may be an option. This treatment is being studied in
If you have asthma symptoms that are triggered by
For some people,
Some people have found that mind and body practices such as
Talk with your doctor about any complementary health practice that you would like to try or are already using. Your doctor can help you manage your health better if he or she has the whole picture about your health.
For more information on alternative treatments, see the topic
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Current as of: March 9, 2022
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