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eMed previously Babylon Health


Edited by Dr Claudia Pastides, 17th April 2019

Asthma is a long-term condition which affects the airways. It is very common and there are millions of people with asthma in the UK. Asthma, it is usually a life-long condition and it’s important to keep the symptoms under control. Asthma symptoms can suddenly get worse and lead to an asthma attack, which can be life threatening if the sufferer doesn’t have the right asthma treatment or doesn’t seek medical attention when needed.

Typical symptoms

The condition affects both children and adults, with the most common symptoms described as:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Difficulty taking part in physical activity
  • Wheezing
  • Coughing
  • A tight chest or chest pain

Risk Factors

It’s not understood why some people develop asthma, but you are more at risk if you have a close relative with the condition. A person with asthma experiences inflammation of the breathing tubes in the lungs, causing them to narrow, often after exposure to a trigger. This is what causes breathlessness and wheezing. Triggers for asthma sufferers include:

  • Allergens – dust mites, pollen, pet hair
  • Air pollution
  • Cigarette smoke or smoky environments
  • Chest infections
  • Cold air
  • Exercise

Common Treatment

People with asthma can usually live a normal life with the right treatment. You will need to speak to a doctor and discuss your symptoms, so they can recommend the best treatment and medication plan. It’s important to keep the symptoms under control, so doctors will often review your treatment every so often to see if changes need to be made.

During a consultation with a doctor, they will ask some questions to try and identify your asthma triggers. The first stage of managing asthma is trying to avoid your known triggers. You may need to quit smoking, avoid certain foods or stay away from environments.

The mainstay of treatment is inhalers. Inhalers deliver medicine directly to the airways. You may be prescribed two different inhalers: one is a preventer inhaler, which usually contains steroids and reduces inflammation of the airways. This needs to be used daily to prevent asthma symptoms. The other is a reliever inhaler which relaxes and widens the airways making it easier to breathe, this is used when symptoms occur. It’s important to understand how your inhalers work and when to use each one – ask your GP if you’re unsure.

The information provided is for educational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Seek the advice of a doctor with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never delay seeking or disregard professional medical advice because of something you have read here.