MURRAY, Utah (Good Things Utah) – It’s that time of year when simply taking a walk down the street can impact your health – especially if you have asthma or allergies.

Asthma is a lung condition in which the airways narrow causing difficulty breathing, wheezing, and coughing. Asthma is a long-term (chronic) disease of the lungs that causes a person’s airways to become inflamed.

This inflammation can make breathing difficult for three reasons:

  • The inside lining of the airways swells and narrows the space inside your airways.
  • The muscles around the airways tighten, which narrows the airways.
  • Your airways produce more mucus, which clogs the airways.

With inflamed airways narrowed by swelling, tightening, and mucus, air doesn’t move as easily into and out of the lungs. It can be like trying to breathe through a narrow straw. One has to work extra hard to get air in and out.

Those with asthma may have the following symptoms:

  • Chest tightness
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Wheezing
  • Coughing

“Since asthma interferes with one’s breathing, it’s a serious condition. Uncontrolled asthma causes people to miss work or school, go to the hospital, or even lead to death,” said Stephen Boden, MD, an allergist at the Intermountain Health Bountiful Clinic. “Fortunately, advances in asthma therapy offer several different treatments which can improve patient’s asthma control and help avoid serious problems that interfere with their daily activities.”

Consult a primary care provider for any symptoms that are asthma like, if asthma treatment isn’t working, and you need to use your quick-relief medicine more than 2 times a week for an asthma flare up.

While the exact cause of asthma may be unknown, doctors and researchers have a good understanding of what causes asthma to flare up.

Those who have asthma get inflamed airways that are “twitchy”. They overreact to irritants in the environment. These irritants are called triggers, and include anything that sets off an asthma flare-up.

Different people have different triggers. Some common asthma triggers are allergies, chest colds, pollution, viral or bacterial infections, and exercise. To control asthma, it’s important to find out what triggers flare-ups and learn ways to maneuver around them.

Although anyone can get asthma at any age, certain risk factors may increase your chances of having it:

  • Asthma often starts in childhood and is more common in children than in adults.
  • More boys than girls have asthma. But in adulthood, more women than men have it.
  • People who have allergies or whose family members have allergies are more likely than other people to have asthma.
  • Asthma tends to run in families. If your mother, father, or siblings have asthma, you’re at an increased risk.
  • People who smoke or who are around a lot of secondhand smoke are more likely to get asthma.

Adult-onset asthma cases can be triggered by allergies. Exposure to allergens or irritants such as cigarette smoke, dust, mold, chemicals, or other substances commonly found in the person’s environment (such as a home or workplace), might trigger the first asthma symptoms in an adult.

Additionally, hormonal fluctuations in women may play a role in adult-onset asthma. Some women first develop asthma symptoms during or after a pregnancy. Women going through menopause can develop asthma symptoms for the first time.

Different illnesses, viruses, or infections can also be a factor in adult-onset asthma. This could be caused by a cold or even flu.

In addition to asking you questions about your symptoms and lifestyle, your provider may use a variety of tools to diagnose and confirm if you have asthma. This may include a physical examination, breathing test called “spirometry”, and blood testing.

It’s never good to have asthma, but there are many treatments available to treat it.  Prescription and over-the-counter medications may be recommended such as inhaled albuterol and intranasal corticosteroids.

The best way to prevent symptoms from asthma is to avoid allergic triggers if they are connected. Asthma isn’t preventable, but flare-ups from symptoms can be. It is important to come up with a treatment plan with your provider and to take medications to prevent ongoing symptoms.

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