If you sometimes have difficulty breathing, or if you find that you cough a lot when you are active or you sometimes feel like you can’t take a deep breath, you might have asthma. About 20 million Americans, including nine million children, are diagnosed with asthma. In fact, asthma is the most common serious disease among children in the United States.
Asthma is a condition that makes breathing difficult. It is chronic, which means you won’t “get over it” like you do a cold. There is no cure for asthma, but there are treatments that can ease the symptoms of an asthma attack and help prevent attacks from happening.
During an asthma attack, the airways become inflamed and swollen, which makes it harder for air to flow in and out of the lungs. This swelling can also lead to excess mucus in the airways, which can clog air passages and lead to coughing. The muscles around the airways can also contract, which makes the airways smaller so less air can get through. Common symptoms of an asthma attack include:
• Wheezing or whistling when you breathe
• Difficulty breathing
• Tightness in the chest
Having asthma does not mean that you cannot live an active life. There are many medications available to help control asthma symptoms and prevent attacks. The key to controlling asthma is having an accurate diagnosis so you and your doctor can put together a plan to manage your asthma symptoms.
A basic asthma screening test can be done at an asthma clinic or doctor’s office. During the test, the patient blows into a tube containing sensors. A computer reads the sensors to determine how much air your lungs can move before taking asthma medicine and after the medication. If your lungs work better after the medication, you probably have asthma.
Other tests for asthma include blood tests which can check oxygen levels and check for cells showing an allergy that could cause asthma, chest X-ray, and other lung function tests. If you suspect that you could have asthma or if you sometimes have difficulty breathing, it is very important to get tested for asthma. A severe asthma attack can make breathing impossible and can be deadly.