How To Tell You Have Asthma
In this section: Diagnosis and Lung Testing | How To Tell You Have Asthma | Your Healthcare Team
Asthma is a complex disease to diagnose, and only a healthcare professional is able to make a proper diagnosis.
If you are concerned that you may have asthma, contact your healthcare provider. In order to confirm an asthma diagnosis, your healthcare provider will take into account your medical and family history, allergies, and conduct lung function testing such as spirometry.
What To Think About
One of the best tools for managing asthma is a daily controller medicine that has a corticosteroid . But some people worry about taking steroid medicines because of myths theyve heard about them. If youre making a decision about a steroid inhaler, it helps to know the facts.
At the start of asthma treatment, the number and dosage of medicines are chosen to get the asthma under control. Your doctor may start you at a higher dose within your asthma classification so that the inflammation is controlled right away. After the asthma has been controlled for several months, the dose of the last medicine added is reduced to the lowest possible dose that prevents symptoms. This is known as step-down care. Step-down care is believed to be a better way to control inflammation in the airways than starting at lower doses of medicine and increasing the dose if it is not enough.footnote 10
Because quick-relief medicine quickly reduces symptoms, people sometimes overuse these medicines instead of using the slower-acting long-term medicines. But overuse of quick-relief medicines may have harmful effects, such as reducing how well these medicines will work for you in the future.footnote 11
You may have to take more than one medicine each day to manage your asthma. Help yourself remember when to take each medicine, such as taping a note to your refrigerator to remind yourself.
Q: What Increases Your Risk For Adult
A: Most childhood asthma disappears in adulthood. But having childhood asthma increases your risk of a relapse in your 30s or 40s. Other factors that increase the risk of adult-onset asthma include:
- Being overweight or obese: A low level of physical activity, changes in lung physiology and higher levels of inflammation are among several factors at play.
- Being female: Hormonal fluctuations in pregnancy and menopause can trigger asthma.
- Allergens: Cats, cigarette smoke, chemicals, mold or dust can trigger asthma.
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What Are The Symptoms Of Adult
Adult-onset asthma can develop at any age and produces symptoms similar to those that occur in childhood asthma, which may include:
- Difficulty breathing
- Dry cough that often worsens during the night
- Whistling sound when exhaling
- Sensation of chest pressure or tightness
- Shortness of breath with physical exertion
- Frequent chest colds that last longer than the average 4-10 days
Unlike childhood asthma, which typically flares up periodically and then remains quiet until triggered by a viral infection, allergies, etc., adult-onset asthma symptoms tend to be more persistent and often require daily treatment.
When To Seek Emergency Care
A severe asthma flare-up needs to be treated before it becomes a medical emergency. Here are some of the signs that you need to seek emergency care for your asthma symptoms right away:
- Your usual medications, such as a rescue inhaler, arent working to relieve your symptoms.
- Your PEF readings are very low, especially after youve used quick-relief asthma medication.
- Its difficult to walk, talk, sleep, exercise, and/or think clearly because of your breathing difficulties.
- Your chest tightness or pain becomes severe.
- You develop signs of cyanosis, a condition caused by a lack of oxygen in the blood. Cyanosis may cause discoloration and color changes in the skin around the eyes, mouth, fingernails, and fingertips. Your skin might turn blue, gray, purple, or white, depending on your complexion.
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Asthma And Copd Fundamentals
Asthma & COPD Fundamentals Course Asthma & Respiratory Foundation NZ This course aligns the latest research with specific information for the New Zealand context, such as recently funded medications, treating Mori and Pasifika peoples, and best practice health literacy. The course aligns with the latest New Zealand asthma guidelines. It includes two half day workshops covering the key aspects of COPD and asthma pathophysiology, management and practice.
Am I Experiencing Adult Onset Asthma
Up to 25 million Americans have asthma, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. While most people develop the condition in childhood, adult-onset asthma is also possible.
In fact, asthma symptoms can develop at any age and stage of life. Some people who have asthma as children age out of flare-ups as they get older, while others first experience the condition well into adulthood.
Would you recognize the symptoms of adult-onset asthma if you were to experience them?
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What Are Symptoms Of Adult
When it comes to allergies, symptoms tend to get worse over time, and some may even be life-threatening. A few common signs and symptoms you need to watch out for include:
- Runny nose or nasal congestion: May be triggered by an airborne allergen such as pollen, dust, or pet dander
- Itchy, swollen eyes: May be caused by allergens entering the eyes, such as pollen or ingredients in a new eye cream
- Red and white, raised rash: Also called urticaria, looks like nettlerash and disappears after 20 minutes, and almost always a sign that you have had an allergic reaction to something you have eaten
- Swelling of the lips, tongue, and face: Rarest but most dangerous kind of allergic reaction that can come on very quickly
- May be the result of eating a certain food , taking certain medication, or a wasp sting
- May quickly develop into an anaphylactic shock and be deadly, therefore requiring emergency medical attention
Side Effects Of Steroid Tablets
Oral steroids carry a risk if they are taken for more than three months or if they are taken frequently . Side effects can include:
- easy bruising
- muscle weakness
With the exception of increased appetite, which is very commonly experienced by people taking oral steroids, most of these unwanted effects are uncommon.
However, it is a good idea to keep an eye out for them regularly, especially side effects that are not immediately obvious, such as high blood pressure, thinning of the bones, diabetes and glaucoma.
You will need regular appointments to check for these.
Read further information:
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What Are Treatment Options For Sudden Adult
On the bright side, allergic symptoms are rarely dangerous. There are several treatments that can help, and many of them are available over-the-counter.
Your doctor may want to do an allergy skin test before confirming a diagnosis. Depending on your diagnosis and severity of symptoms, treatment options may include:
- Finding and avoiding known allergens
Why Is Asthma Difficult To Diagnose In Older Adults
A diagnosis of asthma may be missed in an older person because symptoms of other health conditions are similar to asthma symptoms and may mask the specific symptoms. Asthma symptoms among older adults are more likely to take the form of coughing with the production of sputum from the lungs. Your physician might interpret those symptoms as being due to other illnesses, such as chronic bronchitis or congestive heart failure. In particular, heart disease and emphysema, much more common in older adults, especially smokers, can mimic asthma symptoms.
Good to know . . . One of the ways in which asthma is recognized among younger people is by the symptoms of wheezing and difficulty breathing following exercise. When older adults become inactive, the opportunity for asthma to present itself lessens. If you experience asthma symptoms wheezing, shortness of breath, tightness in the chest, chronic cough with your regular activities such as housework, shopping, gardening, or walking, be sure to talk with your physician as soon as possible.
When the asthma symptoms are not recognized correctly, they may remain untreated, likely worsening and creating very serious health risks.
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How Do I Recognize The Early Signs Of An Asthma Attack
Early warning signs are changes that happen just before or at the very beginning of an asthma attack. These changes start before the well-known symptoms of asthma and are the earliest signs that your asthma is worsening.
In general, these early asthma attack symptoms are not severe enough to stop you from going about your daily activities. But by recognizing these signs, you can stop an asthma attack or prevent one from getting worse.
Early warning signs of an asthma attack may include:
- Frequent cough, especially at night
- Reduced peak flow meter readings
- Losing your breath easily or shortness of breath
- Feeling very tired or weak when exercising
- Wheezing or coughing during or after exercise
- Feeling tired, easily upset, grouchy, or moody
The severity of an asthma attack can escalate rapidly, so it’s important to treat these symptoms immediately once you recognize them.
Youre Coughing And Wheezing More During The Day
Another sign that your severe asthma may be getting worse is if youre coughing or wheezing more often than usual.
Talk with your doctor about adjusting your treatment plan if you constantly feel like youre about to cough. Also speak with them if you find yourself wheezing with a whistle-like sound more than once a day.
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Asthma Can Start At Any Age And Since Adult
Many assume asthma is a disease that first turns up in childhood. But you can develop asthma as an adult, and many people do.
Its not uncommon for people at any age, even over 50, to be diagnosed with asthma.
Adults can develop asthma from infections like bronchitis or pneumonia, or from allergies and irritants like smoke or mold, but the cause is often unclear.
Kentucky has the highest percentage of adults with asthma in the country, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data. Kentuckys adult death rate from asthma is 10.2 per million, slightly higher than the national norm.
Adult-onset asthma can be more dangerous because its easy to attribute the symptoms to being overweight, out of shape or just getting older. Its critical to get diagnosed quickly and begin treatment before lung function is reduced permanently.
Where To Get Help For Childhood Or Adult Asthma
For adults or children, asthma can have a big impact on daily life. Managing symptoms, and avoiding or minimizing asthma attacks, is important to improving ones quality of life. Having the support of a caring healthcare provider can make all the difference.
If you or a loved one need help managing asthma symptoms, or would like assistance from a WWMG healthcare professional to create an asthma action plan, contact Western Washington Medical Group Family Practice to schedule an appointment. For more general inquiries, use the form on this page. We look forward to helping you.
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Adult Versus Childhood Asthma
When a child is diagnosed with asthma, they typically experience symptoms intermittently. They might develop symptoms when exposed to specific triggers or a respiratory infection.
In contrast, adults diagnosed with asthma later in life usually have persistent symptoms.
Asthma in adults can also be more challenging to manage. This is because its more common for adult asthmatics to experience faster lung function decline than children. Likewise, adults are more likely to die from an asthma attack than children.
3,524² people died from asthma in 2019. As a result, its common for adult asthmatics to regularly take preventative asthma medications or have other asthma medications on hand to treat symptoms when they develop.
What Is Good Asthma Care
Your doctor or nurse will tailor your asthma treatment to your symptoms. Sometimes you may need to be on higher levels of medication than at others.
You should be offered:
- care at your GP surgery provided by doctors and nurses trained in asthma management
- full information about your condition and how to control it
- involvement in making decisions about your treatment
- regular checks to ensure your asthma is under control and your treatment is right for you
- a written personal asthma action plan agreed with your doctor or nurse
It is also important that your GP or pharmacist teaches you how to properly use your inhaler, as this is an important part of good asthma care.
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A Consumers Guide To Drug Discounts
The updated guidelines also recommend a type of drug called a long-acting muscarinic antagonist to improve symptoms for these age groups. And for young children who wheeze only when they have a respiratory tract infection , the new guidelines recommend a short course of inhaled corticosteroids plus a rescue inhaler as needed. This can prevent worsening of breathing problems and forestall the need for corticosteroid pills.
Most asthma medications are breathed in through the use of an inhaler or nebulizer. There are two main types of inhalers a metered dose inhaler , which uses a pressurized medicine-filled canister, and a dry powder inhaler , containing medicine in powdered form. A nebulizer uses a mask and delivers medication as a mist. Its important to learn the different techniques for using these devices to ensure the medicine reaches your lungs.
There are few evidence-backed natural remedies for asthma, particularly if your case is severe. But lifestyle changes, like controlling stress, and some complementary therapies, like acupuncture, may help manage symptoms.
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When To See The Doctor
A good rule of thumb is you should visit your doctor if you have asthma and you wake up in the night more than once per week after using treatments. Your doctor can evaluate what may be causing your symptoms and help modify your treatment plan. Checking your breath in a peak flow meter at night may also be helpful.
If you are not diagnosed with asthma but have asthma-like symptoms at night, you should report the episodes to your doctor. While you may not have asthma, your doctor can point you in the right direction for treatment.
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What Is An Asthma Flare
During an asthma flare-up, asthma symptoms get worse. You may have only one or two symptoms, or you might have several. Circadian rhythms can also alter hormone secretion, which is why some healthcare experts theorize that asthma gets worse at night in some people.
Another sign that youre experiencing an asthma flare-up is that your inhaler isnt working as well as it usually does. You might notice that you need to take more quick-relief asthma medication than usual.
Peak expiratory flow is the best way to assess the seriousness of asthma flare-up. With a peak flow meter, you can measure how well your lungs are functioning and monitor your asthma symptoms. In order for a peak flow meter to be useful during an asthma flare, you need to know what your recommended normal range is. Talk with your healthcare provider about how to determine this.
The Symptoms Of Adult
When you have asthma, the condition causes the airways to narrow, swell and produce extra mucus. When this occurs, you may experience a number of symptoms, including:
- Chest congestion
- Shortness of breath, particularly after being physically active
- Wheezing when you exhale
Those who have adult-onset asthma may also find it more difficult to recover after seemingly minor viruses, such as the common cold. Colds and other viruses may be more likely to move into the chest and linger, causing coughing and other symptoms to flare up.
While asthma may come and go during childhood, its more likely to persist in adults. This makes it important to take steps to manage the condition.
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There Are Many Different Types Of Asthma Brought On By Many Different Triggers
If youre struggling with asthma symptoms trouble breathing, a persistent cough or tightness in the chest an allergist can help you take control by providing a diagnosis and identifying the underlying causes.
Learn about the triggers and treatment for allergic asthma and how an allergist can help you manage allergy and asthma symptoms.
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Are There Special Considerations In Treating Asthma In Older Adults
Yes. First of all, treatment of asthma for older adults can be complicated by the fact that so many older people take multiple medications for various health conditions. Some asthma medications can react with those other treatments, causing unpleasant side effects. In addition, other medications may actually worsen asthma symptoms.
Secondly, older patients are more likely than younger patients to have mental confusion or memory problems. This may be the result of normal aging or of an illness, such as Alzheimers disease. Whatever the cause, these problems can make it difficult for certain older patients to follow treatment instructions especially if that person takes medications for a variety of health conditions.
Additionally, many asthma medications come in the form of an L-shaped metered dose inhaler which requires a certain degree of manual coordination and dexterity. Older people are more likely to have difficulty with this type of medication device, and in using it, may not receive the correct dose. Treatment with a dry powder inhaler or oral medications can help older asthma patients avoid problems with use of L-shaped inhalers.
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