3 May 2022
3 min read

Asthma is a chronic condition that affects the airways. It is a common illness that is often diagnosed in children, although in some people it is discovered later in adulthood.  It is considered a chronic illness, even though one does not always experience attacks. This means that the likelihood of getting an asthma attack will always be there.

How do you know you have asthma?

Narrowing of the airways, also understood as spasms, defines an asthma attack. When this happens, breathing becomes very difficult. This can be triggered by a number of different things, such as dust, pollen, exercise, chest infections, pets, grass, etc. Asthma sufferers vary in that they each have different triggers for their attacks. During an attack there is wheezing (a whistling sound) when breathing, coughing, a tight chest, and difficulty in breathing. Most asthma sufferers express this feeling as “a tight band around the chest”.  Asthma is usually hereditary, therefore knowing your family history is very useful.

How is it diagnosed?

Should you experience any of the above symptoms, your doctor will ask you questions related to your daily activities and family history. During examination, the doctor may be able to pick up some wheezing. Then you will likely be asked to perform a lung function exercise. This means blowing as hard as you can, and for as long as you can, into a small hand-held machine called a peak flow meter, which measures your lungs’ ability to blow out air and strength sustaining the activity.

Your doctor may even give you an inhaler to inhale some medication, and then ask you to repeat the peak flow exercise. In some instances, you may require a chest x-ray or allergy tests. Hospitalization is often only required if your breathing is severe and requires urgent management.

How is asthma treated?

Not everyone with asthma takes the same medication. However, you should receive quick-acting medicine (a reliever), as well as long-acting medication (a controller). The reliever should always be close-by in the event you experience an attack. It  provides immediate relief from shortness of breath and spasms of the airways. The long-acting medication is taken routinely (daily) and acts to prevent attacks.

Should you find that you use your reliever frequently, you need to go back to your doctor to adjust or change your medication. Asthma sufferers’ symptoms can be mild (3-4 times a month or less), moderate (nighttime symptoms weekly) or severe (daily). Each category responds to a particularr combination of drugs, which your doctor would recommend for you.

In the event that you have managed to be symptom-free for over 6 months to a year, your doctor may suggest that you trial a medication-free period or reduce your doses over time until you are ready to go without any medication. This often occurs if you know your triggers and are able to avoid them. This, however, does not mean you no longer have asthma.

The most important things to remember about asthma

  • Asthma sufferers do not always have attacks, but they still have the illness
  • Triggers for an attack vary from person to person
  • Controlled asthma is when you do not experience symptoms, can sleep well at night, can participate in any activities without being limited by your illness, and you have not required any doctor or hospital visits in the recent past
  • If you need to use your reliever frequently, go and see your doctor

NMG Consultants and Actuaries is an Authorised financial services providers t/a NMG Benefits.

The content in this communication is for information purposes and is not intended to be detailed advice, you should seek the advice of your physician or a qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.


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