Managing asthma

One in 10 Australians suffer from asthma. People can get asthma at any age, so if you have been feeling short of breath you may wish to learn how it can be managed.

What is asthma?
Asthma is a condition in which a person has sensitive airways in their lungs. Triggers can cause their airways to narrow, making it difficult for them to breathe. There are three different ways in which a person’s airways can narrow.

  1. The inside lining of the airway becomes swollen and inflammed
  2. Extra mucus is produced
  3. Muscles around the airways squeeze tight

Who gets asthma?
Asthma can affect people of all ages. Some people get it when they are young and ‘grow out of it’, some people have it for their whole lives and others get it when they are older.

Asthma symptoms
If you think you may have asthma, you should see your doctor. The symptoms of asthma are similar to the symptoms of a number of respiratory disorders, so it is important to get an expert opinion. The main symptoms of asthma include:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Wheezing
  • Chest tightness
  • A dry, persistent cough, especially at night, early in the morning or with exercise


How is asthma treated?
Once you are diagnosed with asthma, your doctor will make an asthma management plan with you. This includes working out how severe your asthma is, and then deciding on the best way to treat it. Your asthma management plan will include:

  • Treating other conditions which may affect your asthma
  • Avoiding your asthma triggers except exercise
  • Guidance on taking medications properly
  • Tracking your level of asthma control
  • Responding to worsening symptoms
  • Seeking emergency care where needed

What can trigger asthma?
There are many different triggers for asthma, and a sufferer may be affected by many, some, or only one on this list. Some possible triggers of asthma include:

  • Aerosol sprays
  • Air pollution
  • Bushfires
  • Chemicals
  • Colds
  • Dust mites
  • Exercise
  • Food
  • Hormones
  • Medications
  • Mould
  • Pets
  • Pollen
  • Sex
  • Smoking

What to do in an emergency
If someone is having a severe asthma attack, which includes severe difficulties breathing, speaking, a quiet wheeze, sucking in of the throat and chest muscles, looking pale and sweaty, blue lips, stress and anxiety, you need to call an ambulance immediately. If you or someone you know suffers from asthma, there are emergency procedures you should learn in case of an attack. Your doctor can talk you through the procedures, depending on the treatment the person is taking.

More information
To find out more visit the National Asthma Council of Australia website.