What is asthma?

Asthma is reasonably common in Australia, with 1 in 10 people living with the lung disease. We explain what it is and what can cause it .

Asthma is a chronic condition which can make breathing more difficult. The airways (tubes which carry air in and out of your lungs)  are sensitive and vulnerable to certain triggers. These triggers (whether it’s an infection like a cold, exercise or an allergy) can cause the airways to narrow and produce more mucous.

Some of the signs and symptoms of asthma include wheezing, shortness of breath, a tightness in the chest, and a persistent cough (especially in the morning and at night).
 
These symptoms can vary greatly in severity and may come and go, and come on slowly or quickly.  The advice is to recognise and treat symptoms as early as possible. A severe asthma attack can be life threatening and may require urgent medical attention.
woman using puffer for asthma

What causes asthma?

Exactly what causes asthma isn’t fully understood. Asthma Australia says it’s common for people living with it to have, or have  family members with, a history of eczema, hay fever or asthma.

Those who smoke during pregnancy or around their children are more likely to have a child with asthma. Babies with a low birth weight or premature babies are also at an increased risk of developing the lung disease.
 
There are many things that can trigger asthma flare ups and it’s different for everyone.
 
It could be:
  • Allergies 
  • Cold or flu
  • Exercise
  • Stress
  • Changes in weather
  • Dust or smoke
  • Some medications
  • Pollution
  • Chemicals or other airborne substances in the workplace
  • Laughing or crying.

Keeping a diary to record anything that triggers your asthma can help you and your doctor discover any patterns. This way you can try targeted strategies to avoid these triggers where possible.

Managing asthma

There is no cure for asthma, however with the right medications and lifestyle it’s possible to manage the symptoms, and help prevent your condition from getting worse.

It’s also important to work with a medical professional to develop an asthma action plan  that’s tailored to you. It’ll help you recognise when your asthma is getting worse, and remind you of what to do to help manage the condition at different times, and when and where to get help if you need it. 
 
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