It can be hard to get to grip with asthma, especially when you’ve just been diagnosed.
You might feel overwhelmed with what medication you need to take and when and what asthma is.
That’s why we’ve gathered together our top five asthma facts you need to know.
1. What is asthma?
According to Asthma UK, it is a long-term condition that affects the tubes carrying air in and out of your lungs. If you have asthma your airways are seen as sensitive and inflamed and likely to react when they come into contact with something they don’t like, for example cigarette smoke. If you have asthma, your body can react in three ways:
- The muscles around the walls of your airways tighten so that the airways become narrower
- The lining of your airways becomes inflamed and start to swell
- Mucus or phlegm can build up, which further narrows your airways.
These reactions make it difficult to breathe as your airways are narrower and irritated. This can lead to common asthma symptoms including chest tightness, wheezing or coughing.
2. How is asthma diagnosed?
When GPs assess patients who experience breathlessness, a cough or other respiratory symptoms, they perform a breathing test to determine how well the lungs are functioning. This involves measuring the amount of air you can forcefully exhale from a full breath, using a device called a spirometer.
3. What do I do after a diagnosis?
If you’ve just been diagnosed with asthma you may need to visit your GP or asthma nurse regularly so they can monitor your treatment. You can also fill in a written asthma action plan, such as this one, from Asthma UK who say that you’re four times less likely to need to go to hospital with asthma if you have one.
When you start to feel more in control of your asthma, and you’re in a good routine with your medicines, it’s important to make sure you book an asthma review at least once a year. Even if your symptoms are well managed and feeling well. Your review is an appointment with your GP or asthma nurse to talk about your asthma and any ways you can manage your symptoms better. You should go every year even if your symptoms are well managed and you’re feeling well.
4. What is the difference between asthma and COPD?
Asthma is the most common childhood disease, according to the American Lung association, affecting around 10% of people. Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a chronic adult disease which encompasses emphysema and/or chronic bronchitis.
Some people can have both asthma and COPD and studies show a direct connection between severity of asthma as a child and the occurrence of COPD later in life. Many people who develop COPD will need to continue to treat the inflammation caused by their asthma as well as add treatments to manage the symptoms of COPD.
Smoking is the leading cause of COPD, with giving up being said to be the best way to slow the progression of it.
5. You’re more likely to have hay fever if you have asthma
Although, according to Asthma UK around one in five people have hay fever, it’s much more common among people who have asthma. Around four out of five people with asthma also have hay fever (an allergy to pollen which also causes a blocked or runny nose, sneezing and itchy eyes.) If you want to find out more about allergies and asthma, why not read our blog on the topic?