Asthma affects approximately 3 million Canadians – 600 000 of those are children.(1) It can be a very serious medical condition that can result in dangerous emergencies, but it can also be managed with the help of your doctor. With so many people in Canada affected every day by asthma, it is important to understand what this condition is and how to care properly for yourself and your loved ones in order to live safe and symptom-free lives.
What is Asthma:
Asthma is defined by physicians as a chronic inflammatory disease of the airway(1). While asthma is a little different for each person, asthma symptoms are usually a result of the airways in the lungs becoming restricted by swelling and the production of mucus, as well as the twitching and tightening of the muscles surrounding the airways.
When the lungs experience this swelling and tightening, you might feel some of these symptoms:
- Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
- Tightness in the chest
Asthma is a chronic condition, which means that it never truly goes away. However, it is possible for symptoms to come and go or even feel different from one episode to the next. Asthma can also be managed with proper medical care so that these symptoms are reduced or eliminated and you can live a safer and less restricted life.
Often, an asthma attack can be the result of being exposed to triggers. These triggers may irritate your airway, causing the constriction and inflammation that result in asthma symptoms. Triggers can be inflammatory (caused by an allergic reaction) like dust, animals, mould, pollen, etc. They can also be a symptom trigger (non-allergic irritants that trigger asthma) such as smoke, exercise, cold air, or intense emotions and stress.
You and Your Healthcare Team:
For the majority of Canadians, asthma symptoms can be completely controlled with the right medical help. By talking to your doctor about your respiratory health, he or she can help find the right ways to treat and monitor your condition properly.
You and Your Medications:
Medications are an important part of controlling asthma symptoms and keeping your lungs healthy. There are two main types of asthma medications. These two medication types are meant to work on reducing symptoms in different ways.
A controller medication is preventative and is designed for regular, daily use. By taking your controller medication daily as instructed, you will gradually feel fewer asthma symptoms in your everyday life. Feeling fewer and less intense symptoms means that the medication is working, but you will need to continue taking this medication regularly to stay healthy.
A reliever medication is intended for quick relief of symptoms and is generally used only when symptoms flare up. These are short-term solutions to your breathing problem that can help avoid emergencies but do not treat underlying symptoms like airway irritation very well.
If you are having asthma symptoms and your reliever medication doesn’t relieve your symptoms quickly, call 9-1-1 immediately. You could need more advanced help and will want to react quickly to stay safe.
Keeping An Eye on Respiratory Health:
Many Canadians with asthma do not have it properly controlled. In most cases, creating a good asthma plan with your doctor can control your asthma completely. Is your asthma controlled properly? Try this resource to see how your respiratory health is doing: https://howmuchistoomuch.ca/en/
Only your doctor can diagnose asthma and will be able to assist in developing a care plan. If you are having difficulty breathing, it might be due to asthma or it could be one of many other conditions. Any breathing problems are a medical concern that you should discuss with your doctor. Getting diagnosed is an important first step in taking care of yourself, and continuing to take care of your condition will make life safer and more pleasant.