Quick Facts: Asthma

What is asthma?

Asthma is a condition in which airways swell, narrow and produce extra mucous, which makes breathing difficult. It can also cause coughing, wheezing and shortness of breath.

Asthma ranges from being a minor nuisance to some people to severely impacting the quality of life of others. In fact, it can be life threatening.

Asthma is an ongoing condition that needs regular monitoring.

What are the symptoms of asthma?

Some people who have asthma only have symptoms in certain situations such as during exercise or in cold air. Others have symptoms at all times. These symptoms can include:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Pain or tightness in the chest
  • Wheezing or whistling sound when exhaling
  • Trouble sleeping caused by coughing or difficulty breathing
  • Attacks of coughing or wheezing worsened during cold or flu

What are the potential complications of asthma?

Potential complications of asthma include:

  • Missing school or work during flare-ups
  • Permanent narrowing of bronchial tubes, which makes it more difficult to breathe
  • Emergency room visits or hospitalizations for severe attacks

 How is asthma prevented? 

Your doctor can help you design a personalized plan to prevent or reduce the frequency of asthma attacks. Some prevention tips include:

  • Develop and follow an asthma action plan
  • Identify and avoid asthma triggers
  • Monitor your breathing and act fast
  • Get immunizations for flu and pneumonia
  • Take medication as prescribed
  • Take note of increased quick-relief inhaler use

 If you are needing your quick-relief inhaler more to manage symptoms, your asthma is not under control—see your doctor to modify your asthma management plan.

  What are treatments for asthma?

Prevention and long-term control are the best ways to manage asthma. There are two types of asthma medications:

  •  Quick relief or “rescue” medications help relieve symptoms during an asthma attack. Called bronchodilators, these medications quickly open swollen airways that limit breathing during an asthma attack.
  •  Long-term control medications help you have fewer and milder asthma attacks, but they do not help with symptoms during an asthma attack. These medicines work preventively to reduce airway inflammation that leads to asthma symptoms.

 Sometimes, allergy shots or medications may also help if your asthma is triggered by allergies.

 Asthma may change in time, so it is important to see your doctor to keep your asthma action plan current.

What are the asthma rates in the U.S.?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 18.7 million or 1 in 12 adults in the United States have asthma.  Also, seven million children in the United States have asthma, or 1 in 11 children.

What are the asthma rates in Prince George’s County?

The Department of Health and Mental Hygiene approximates that 13.8 percent of adults have been diagnosed at one time with asthma. 

How does Doctors Community Hospital help people who have asthma?

Our Pulmonary Rehabilitation Program helps people who have asthma or other chronic lung disorders learn how to manage this condition. With personalized treatment plans, this team provides the support and education that people need to improve or maintain their health.Learn more about our Pulmonary Rehabilitation Program.