Asthma is a common condition that affects the airways in your lungs, causing these airways to become more sensitive and leads to inflammation when exposed to certain triggers. Once these airways are inflamed, symptoms like coughing, wheezing and breathlessness begin.
Asthma generally affects 1 in 9 adults and 1 in 5 children, however anyone can develop asthma – even if you didn’t have it as a child. Experts aren’t sure why some people have asthma and others don’t, but genetics do play a part – you are more likely to have asthma if an immediate family member has asthma, hay fever, allergies, or eczema.
Asthma triggers cause the airways to narrow and lead to asthma symptoms. The triggers can vary from person to person, but knowing what the triggers are, and managing them can lead to better controlled asthma.
Some common triggers of asthma are:
- Allergens such as pollen, dust, food items and mould.
- Smoke from cigarettes, bushfires, and traffic pollution.
- Irritants such as cleaning products, aerosol products and chemicals.
- Physical activity.
- Infection from viruses.
Sometimes asthma can flare up and the symptoms are worse than usual – this is when it becomes an asthma attack. An asthma attack may feel like you are not getting enough air and has been compared to breathing through a straw.
During a severe asthma attack, there can be more serious symptoms like:
- Difficulty speaking.
- Blue lips.
- Reliever puffers not helping.
- Exhaustion from trying to breathe.
- Deep sucking motions at the throat or chest while trying to breathe.
If you are living with asthma, having an asthma action plan is recommended. This is a set of instructions you and your doctor put together just for you – it generally includes:
- A list of your usual asthma medicines along with doses.
- How to recognise symptoms of an attack.
- Advice on what to do in an asthma emergency.
- The doctors contact details should they be required.
Poorly controlled asthma can have a significant negative impact on your life, ranging from fatigue and poor sleep, being unable to be physically active due to reduced lung function, and poor mental health.
Taking your medicines exactly as prescribed is important, if you feel that your asthma is affecting your quality of life or finding that you are using your reliever more than you used to, it may be time for a chat with your doctor or pharmacist about your medicines.