Asthma is a long-term medical condition which affects your airways. Technically speaking; asthma affects your respiratory tract, which are the tubes that transport air to and from your lungs. The condition makes these tubes more sensitive, putting them at higher risk of inflammation and possible tightening of the muscles around them.
Around 5.4 million people in the UK are receiving treatment for asthma. The condition is more common in women than men, however in children it is the opposite. Around 5% of people with the condition are affected by ‘severe asthma’.
This article will focus on the symptoms of asthma. Please look at our in-depth guide to the condition to learn more about the treatment available and the potential causes.
Symptoms of Asthma
The symptoms of asthma can vary and not everyone experiences all of them at the same time. They can also range from being rather mild to more serious. The four common symptoms are:
- Coughing – Your coughs may keep coming back and can also be accompanied by a wheezing sound. You may find that your coughing is worse at night or early in the morning.
- Tight Chest – People with asthma often describe this feeling as having a heavy weight on their chest. It feels similar to a dull ache or a sharp stabbing in your chest and can make it difficult to take a deep breath.
- Breathlessness – You may find that you get short of breath rather easily, even by doing light or moderate activity. This can also affect your breathing and you may have to concentrate to regulate your breathing.
- Wheezing – This is a whistling sound which comes from your airways, commonly when you’re breathing out. This symptom can come and go, and the severity can also change.
The symptoms above can be triggered by inflamed airways reacting to “triggers.” They can be split into two separate categories:
- Allergic Asthma – When your symptoms are triggered by an allergic reaction to allergens such as pollen, pets and dust.
- Non-allergic Asthma – When your symptoms are caused by an irritant that you breath in, such as cigarette smoke and exhausts fumes.
The condition is not curable, so if you develop asthma as an adult it’s likely that you’ll have the condition for the rest of your life. However, with the correct treatment there is a good chance that you’ll be able to live a normal, active life without any symptoms.
Sometimes your symptoms can become more severe for a short period of time. This is known as an asthma attack and can happen suddenly or gradually over a few days. These attacks can be fatal; three people die from asthma attacks in the UK every day.
Therefore, it is vital that you know the signs of an attack and what to do if you or a loved one suffers from one. Signs include:
- A very tight chest.
- Coughing and/or wheezing a lot.
- Being breathless and finding it difficult to walk or talk
- A rapid heartbeat and faster breathing.
- Blue lips or fingers.
- Feeling drowsy or dizzy.
- Your blue reliever isn’t helping, or you need to use it more than every four hours.
Asthma UK have put together a four-point guide on what to do during an attack:
- Sit up straight and try to remain calm.
- Take one puff of your reliever inhaler (usually blue) every 30-60 seconds up to 10 puffs.
- If you feel worse at any point or you don’t feel better after 10 puffs, call 999 for an ambulance.
- Repeat the second step after 15 minutes whilst you’re waiting for an ambulance.
Learn more about Asthma
If you’re looking to learn a little more about asthma, we have an in-depth guide on our blog. Within that article you will learn about what the condition is, what to do if you have an asthma attack, and the treatment available to help with the symptoms.
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