Living with Asthma

What is asthma?

Asthma is a health condition where the airways in your lungs are affected. The airways, which are the small tubes that carry the air in and out of your lungs, are prone to becoming inflamed in people who suffer from asthma. If a trigger for your asthma is present, the muscles that surround your airways contract and it then becomes more difficult to breathe.
Asthma causes a variety of symptoms, which include:

  • Wheezing
  • Coughing
  • A shortness of breath
  • Chest tightness

What are the causes of asthma?

Unfortunately, the causes of asthma are largely unknown. Your asthma can begin at any age, even though it is most common for it to start in childhood. In the UK, at least one out of every ten children and one out of every twelve adults has asthma. Asthma is also thought to run in families, yet many people with asthma have not got a family history of the condition.
Whilst the causes of asthma are not entirely known, treatments for asthma are available to ensure that asthmatics can manage this condition effectively.

What can make your asthma symptoms worse?

Your asthma symptoms might worsen from time to time. Some asthmatics find that their symptoms are triggered in particular situations or at certain times.
Allergies can also trigger your asthma symptoms. The most common asthma triggers include:

  • Pets
  • House dust mites
  • Pollen and mould
  • Occupational asthma (for example, triggered by flour or wood dust)
  • Colds and the flu

Exercise that induces asthma

  • Smoking and cigarette fumes
  • Emotional arousal (for example, laughter, stress or emotional upset)
  • Hormonal changes (for example, during pregnancy or during the menopause, around puberty, or before your periods)
  • Some asthmatics are sensitive to some types of medicine such as anti-inflammatory painkillers (for example, ibuprofen or diclofenac), aspirin or the beta-blockers that are used to treat glaucoma or heart disease (for example, propanolol, timodol or atenolol)

Children with asthma

More than 1.1 million British children suffer from asthma, yet these children can control their symptoms, thus continuing to lead active and full lives.
What steps should I take as a parent when my child has asthma?
If your child does suffer from asthma:

  • Make your child’s school aware of his/her asthma and ensure that the school knows what to do in the event of an asthma attack
  • Inform your child’s school regarding the asthma medications your child is taking
  • Ensure that your child’s inhaler that he/she takes to school has a dispensing label on it. You can ask your IPSA clinic for an additional label for this purpose if you require one
  • Provide your child’s school with an extra reliever inhaler and ensure that it has got a dispensing label on it
  • Ensure that your child’s school has up-to-date written information concerning your child’s asthma medications and dosages. (Although the dispensing label might be sufficient, check with your child’s school about their requirements.)