Welcome to the Asthma Health Channel by eMedTV. Asthma is a recurring condition that affects your body's ability to move air in and out of your lungs. Asthma attacks can be triggered by anything that irritates the airways and causes them to narrow, such as pollen, smoke, or dust.
What Causes Asthma?
Why one person develops asthma and another person doesn't is unknown. In addition, the things that trigger the onset of asthma symptoms vary from person to person. Possible causes of asthma include allergies to dust mites, pet dander, pollen, mold, and cockroaches -- even cold air. Other possible triggers include viral infections and irritants (such as cigarette smoke or strong odors). Often, a combination of factors triggers the symptoms of asthma. Certain types of exercise can also bring on an asthma attack.
What Are the Symptoms of Asthma?
Asthma signs and symptoms include coughing, wheezing, and difficulty breathing. More severe symptoms of asthma include increased heart rate, rapid breathing, and using the neck and chest muscles to breathe.
How Is Asthma Diagnosed?
When making an asthma diagnosis, the doctor considers factors such a person's medical history (including family history) and his or her symptoms. Some of the tests used when diagnosing asthma include spirometry and a bronchial challenge test. A diagnosis of asthma will likely be based on a classification -- that is, the severity of the person's symptoms when his or her asthma is not well controlled.
How Is Asthma Treated?
Two kinds of medicine are usually used as a treatment for asthma: quick-relief medicines, such as bronchodilators, and long-term control medications, such as corticosteroids. Another tactic used in asthma treatment includes avoiding triggers -- the things that cause asthma attacks or make associated symptoms worse. Your doctor may also have you use a peak flow meter at home as part of your treatment for asthma.
Do Natural Remedies Work?
Natural remedies for asthma include a number of methods, ranging from acupuncture to herbal medications. Although there is little substantial evidence supporting the use of such remedies, these non-pharmacologic forms of treatment remain popular.
Can I Exercise If I Have Asthma?
While there is a link between asthma and exercise, just because a person has asthma, it doesn't mean he or she can't participate in sports or other forms of exercise. Some sports (such as basketball) are more likely to trigger an asthma attack than others.
How Do I Prevent Asthma Attacks?
There is no cure for asthma, but there are several things you can do to help prevent asthma attacks. Suggestions for preventing asthma attacks include washing your pet once a week, avoiding tobacco smoke, and getting a flu shot. Other recommendations include avoiding the things that trigger your symptoms of asthma and following your asthma treatment plan.
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