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Dealing With Asthma
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Key Points to Dealing with Asthma
- Asthma is a chronic (long-term) lung disease that inflames and narrows the airways and makes them more reactive to certain substances breathed in. The exact cause of asthma isn't known.
- Asthma affects people of all ages, but it most often starts in childhood. In the United States, more than 22 million people are known to have asthma. Nearly 6 million of these people are children.
- Asthma causes recurring periods of wheezing (a whistling sound when you breathe), chest tightness, shortness of breath, and coughing. The coughing often occurs at night or early in the morning.
- Sometimes symptoms are mild and go away on their own or after minimal treatment with an asthma medicine. Other times, the symptoms continue to get worse. When symptoms get more intense and/or additional symptoms appear, this is an asthma attack.
- It's important to treat asthma symptoms when you first notice them. This will help prevent the symptoms from worsening and causing a severe attack. Severe asthma attacks may require emergency care, and they can cause death.
- Your doctor will diagnose asthma based on your medical history, a physical exam, and results from tests. Asthma is difficult to diagnose in children younger than 5 years old.
- There's no cure for asthma. Asthma is a long-term disease that requires long-term care. Successful asthma treatment requires you to take an active role in your care. Learn how to manage your asthma, get ongoing care, and watch for signs that your asthma is getting worse.
- The goal of asthma treatment is to control the disease by following the asthma action plan you create with your doctor, taking asthma medicines as prescribed, learning what things make your asthma worse and taking steps to avoid exposure to them, tracking your level of asthma control, and responding quickly to worsening symptoms.
- Asthma is treated with two types of medicines: long-term control medicines and quick-relief medicines. You use a device called an inhaler to take many of these medicines. This device allows the medicine to go right to your lungs.
- The amounts and types of medicine you need to treat your asthma depend on how well controlled your asthma is when you're closely following your asthma action plan. This may change over time.
- Call 911 for an ambulance to take you to the emergency room of your local hospital if you have trouble walking and talking because you're out of breath or you have blue lips or fingernails.
- Track your asthma by recording your symptoms, using a peak flow meter, and getting regular asthma checkups. Let your doctor know if your asthma is getting worse.
- Some aspects of treatment differ for people in certain age groups or those who have special needs.
- Most people who have asthma are able to manage the disease. They have few, if any, symptoms and can live normal, active lives.
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