Do I have asthma or just a chest infection?
Asthma is a common lung condition that causes occasional breathing difficulties.
It affects people of all ages and often starts in childhood, although it can also appear for the first time in adults.
There’s currently no cure for asthma, but there are simple treatments that can help keep the symptoms under control so it doesn’t have a significant impact on your life.
Some people, particularly children, may eventually grow out of asthma. But for others it’s a lifelong condition.
The main symptoms of asthma are wheezing (a whistling sound when brea-thing), breathlessness, a tight chest which may feel like a band is tightening around it and coughing.
The severity of the symp-toms varies from person to person. They usually come and go, but for some people they’re more persistent.
Asthma symptoms can sometimes get temporarily worse. This is known as an asthma attack.
Several conditions can cause similar symptoms, such as a chest infection or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), so it’s important to get a proper diagnosis and correct treatment.
Your GP will usually be able to diagnose asthma by asking about your or your child’s symptoms and carrying out some simple breathing tests.
But these are often difficult to do in infants and young children, so the diagnosis may be made on the basis of symptoms and response to a trial of treatment with an inhaler.
While there’s currently no cure for asthma, there are a number of treatments that can help control the condition.
Most asthma treatments are taken using an inhaler, a small device that delivers a spray or powder medicine to your breathing tubes as you breathe in.
The main treatments are identifying and avoiding asthma triggers if possible, reliever inhalers (inhalers used when needed to quickly relieve asthma symptoms for a short time) or preventer inhalers (inhalers used regu-larly every day to reduce the inflammation in the breathing tubes, which prevents asthma symptoms occurring)
You’ll usually draw up a personal action plan with your doctor or asthma nurse. This will include information about your medicines, how to monitor your condition and what to do if you have an asthma attack.