A condition where the airways (tubes connecting your windpipe to your lungs) are more easily irritated than normal. When they are irritated the airways become narrowed and produce more mucus. This is reversible, and these changes go away when the irritant is removed.
Asthma can make you feel breathless, wheezy (where you make a musical noise when you breathe out) or cough. These symptoms may be worse first thing in the morning and last thing at night.
Common irritants that are triggers for asthma include pollen, cat or dog dander, house dust mite faeces and perfumes. Removal of irritants can help to control asthma but for most patients other treatments will also be needed. For some people it is not possible to identify a specific trigger.
Inhalers are the mainstay of asthma treatment. There are two main groups of inhalers. Preventers are taken regularly to help keep your asthma under control. Relievers are taken as and when you have symptoms during the day. Most of the time, you should not need to use your relievers very often. If you are using more than two relievers per month you should see your doctor as your treatment may need to be changed. It may be important to use a spacer (like a large plastic tube) to help get the medicine all the way into your lungs without it being deposited in your mouth and throat. Sometimes tablets treatments can help with asthma. These are used to treat hayfever and other allergies, or suppress inflammation of the airways.
If you have asthma, a cold or chest infection can make you more wheezy and breathless. It is important to see you doctor promptly as you may need to increase your asthma treatment for a short while whilst you recover from the infection.
Most people with asthma live a normal life, with their asthma causing them relatively few symptoms. It is important to remember that asthma can flare up quickly. If you are feeling breathless and your reliever inhaler has not improved your symptoms, you should seek medical advice quickly. This could be your GP surgery, or in an emergency your local A&E department.