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Asthma FAQs

What is asthma?

Asthma is a respiratory condition which causes people's immune systems to be overly sensitive to inhaled allergens, resulting in inflammation of the airways, causing breathlessness, wheezing and phlegm production. Severe instances of these symptoms are known as an asthma attack.

Is it common?

Asthma affects around 1 in 11 children in the UK and 1 in 12 adults; however research has shown that the number of people with asthma is on the increase.

What are the symptoms?

The most common asthma symptoms are a feeling of breathlessness, a tight chest, wheezing or coughing. These symptoms can be worse in the evenings or can occur after triggers such as exercise or exposure to certain types of allergens. Usually reliever medication should be able to clear these symptoms relatively quickly, but if these symptoms become worse and a person starts to experience a more intense level of difficulty breathing, this is known as an asthma attack and action should be taken immediately.

What can trigger an asthma attack?

Asthma attacks can be triggered by allergens, such as dust mites, pet dander, pollen, smoke, fumes, scents or even extremely strenuous exercise. It's important to understand what your particular asthma triggers might be to ensure that you avoid it if you can, or at least are prepared if you know you are going to be in contact with it.

Who is most likely to have asthma?

Statistically asthma tends to be more common in children who were born to mothers who smoked during pregnancy or who gave birth prematurely. It's also been established that people who had bronchitis as children may be more prone to develop asthma later. Some people are also born with a genetic predisposition that would make them more likely to develop asthma.

Is asthma dangerous?

Asthma can be extremely dangerous if it's not under control, in particular if a person tends to be disposed to regular asthma attacks. If asthma attacks are not dealt with correctly it could lead to suffocation.

Can asthma attacks be prevented?

Using your medication correctly and avoiding asthma triggers is vital in preventing potentially serious attacks, which is why it's important to go to your doctor to have your treatment reviewed on a regular basis.

How is asthma treated?

Asthma can be treated and prevented with the help of medications that can either act as preventers, which are usually steroid based, or treatments that provide relief during an attack. Preventers are normally used daily to keep inflammation of the airways to a minimum; however relievers are taken when you feel that you are experiencing symptoms. They act to relax airways to allow air to flow more freely into the lungs.

What should be done when you experience an asthma attack?

When you have asthma, you will normally have access to an asthma action plan that has been developed for you by your doctor, based on your condition and current health. It's important that you stick to this plan at all times, but if you find that your symptoms become worse in spite of you using your required medication, you should contact emergency services straight away.

Does asthma run in the family?

Although asthma can develop later in a person's life due to other environmental factors, there are people who tend to be more prone to asthma because they are genetically prone to develop it. Sometimes a people with a family history of allergies tend to be more likely to develop asthma as well.

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