ASTHMA - General information
What is Asthma?
Asthma is a chronic illness that can range from mild to severe. This means there is no cure, it will always affect your lungs to a certain extent. Asthma affects 8.4% of Canadians. Uncontrolled asthma is very common, however, proper medication and good self-management skills can help most people gain control of their asthma.
When someone has asthma, factors in the environment and physical processes inside the body can activate your immune system. Normally, the body’s immune system protects us from harmful bacteria, viruses, allergens and toxins. But in asthma, the immune system reacts to things that do not necessarily pose a threat, such as allergens (e.g. dust mites in the air you breathe, pet dander, pollens, etc.). Protective cells release chemicals that cause swelling in the airways.
What are the symptoms of asthma?
Asthma can range from very mild to more severe. Here are some of the common symptoms of asthma that are caused by airway inflammation and muscle spasm:
Symptoms may be triggered or worsened by factors such as viral infections, common allergens, irritants (tobacco smoke, strong odors), exercise and stress. In some cases, these respiratory symptoms can also be triggered by exercise or occur at night. Speak with your resource person (your asthma educator) to check what symptoms you may still feel when you are at your best.
How to know if my asthma is well controlled?
Good asthma control means your symptoms (including flare-ups or periods of worsening of symptoms) are minimized. The following are indicators of asthma control:
How is asthma managed?
Remember: The goal of properly managing your disease is to achieve control. The following must be included in a comprehensive treatment plan for asthma:
The objective will be to optimize your global treatment and help you master the needed skills to manage your disease on a day-to-day basis.
It is important to contact your doctor and resource person when you have a flare-up so that they may guide you with your Action Plan and monitor your improvement. People with more severe or frequent symptoms may need to be followed more closely to monitor lung function and to review their Asthma Action Plan.
Can people with asthma get better?
Asthma can have an impact on your job, hobbies, and social relationships. You and your loved ones may worry about the next time your symptoms get out of control.
However, there are many things that can be done to help you managing this chronic disease. Your doctor may refer you to other professionals (respiratory educator, pharmacist, social worker, etc.) to help you explore ways to cope with your asthma.