Asthma keeps you from breathing easy

Your lungs are made of airways that are arranged like an upside down tree. These airways fill with air as you breathe, and start out big and wide, like a tree trunk, then branch out into smaller and smaller airways. If your airways get blocked, it can be hard to breathe.

When you have asthma, certain triggers like allergies and air pollution can cause your airways to become blocked. There are three different reasons airways can close:

  1. The airways swell up and get smaller.
  2. Muscles around your airways get very tight, forcing the airways shut.
  3. Your lungs make a sticky fluid called mucus that blocks up airways.

When your airways become blocked, you can have an asthma attack and may not be able to breathe. Asthma attacks are medical emergencies.

Know your asthma triggers

No one knows why some people have asthma and others don’t. If you have asthma, you need to be aware of the triggers that could lead to an asthma attack. Common triggers include:

  • Allergies
  • Exercise
  • Strong smells
  • Fumes
  • Cigarette or other smoke
  • Air pollution
  • Nasal problems like sinus infections or the flu
  • Crying or laughing too hard

Signs of an asthma attack

When your asthma is triggered, you may have symptoms that provide clues that an asthma attack is coming, including:

  • High pitched whistling noises when you breathe (wheezing)
  • Coughing
  • Trouble breathing
  • Feeling like your chest is tight
  • Pain when you breathe

If you experience these symptoms, you should use medicines to prevent an asthma attack from coming.

Take control of your asthma

Your doctor will work with you to create an asthma action plan that includes what signs to look out for, how to take your medications and when to take your medicines. You may have different medications for asthma, including relievers that stop asthma symptoms fast and controllers that help prevent asthma attacks.

By following your action plan, avoiding triggers and taking your medicines regularly, you can keep your asthma under control.

To schedule an appointment with a specialist at Main Line Health, call 1.866.CALL.MLH (1.866.225.5654) or use our secure online appointment request form.