Would you be surprised to know that asthma affects the health and well-being of more than 26 million Americans, including nearly 7 million children? It is a chronic, lifelong disease that affects your health and well-being. It can prevent you from enjoying your favorite activities – from sports and exercise to reading and gardening.
That’s why Parkview Health offers free asthma education programs and resources to help you and your loved ones learn to manage asthma and its symptoms, including Breathe Well Live Well, Ask the Asthma Educator, Gaining Control of Your Child’s Asthma and the Back to School Checklist.
What are the early warning signs of asthma?
Sometimes asthma causes more subtle symptoms that don’t interrupt your daily activities. But these can be warning signs that a full-blown asthma attack is imminent. Red flags to watch for include:
- Frequent coughing (especially at night)
- Difficulty sleeping
- Unexplained fatigue
- Feeling out of breath
What are symptoms of an asthma attack?
Common symptoms of an asthma attack include:
- Coughing that won’t stop
- Shortness of breath
- Tightness in the chest
In serve cases, an untreated asthma attack can be life threatening.
When should I call 911?
Some asthma attacks require emergency treatment. You should call 911 if:
- You are too breathless to walk or talk
- Your lips or fingernails look blue
- Using a quick relief inhaler doesn’t help
- These are signs that your body is not getting enough oxygen. Emergency treatment can help open the airways and restore oxygen levels.
Who does asthma affect?
Although the cause of asthma is unknown, research has shown that people are most at-risk for developing the condition if they have a family member who suffers from allergies or asthma. Having a parent with asthma makes children three to six times more likely to develop asthma.
Asthma can appear at any age, but it usually develops during childhood. Gender also plays a role. Asthma is more common among boys during childhood, and it’s more common among women during adulthood.
Children may have asthma if they have the following symptoms:
Frequent coughing spells, which may occur during play, at night or while laughing. It is important to know that coughing may be the only symptom present.
- Less energy during play
- Rapid breathing
- Complaint of chest tightness or chest "hurting"
- Wheezing (whistling sound) when breathing in or out
- Retractions (see-saw motions) in the chest from labored breathing
- Shortness of breath, or loss of breath
- Tightened neck and chest muscles
- Feelings of weakness or tiredness
- Dark circles under the eyes
- Frequent headaches
- Loss of appetite
Remember that not all children have the same asthma symptoms, and symptoms can vary from one asthma episode to the next in the same child. You should also note that not all wheezing or coughing is caused by asthma. Additionally, in children younger than 5 years of age, the most common cause of asthma-like symptoms is upper respiratory viral infections such as the common cold.
If your child has problems breathing, take him or her to the doctor immediately for an evaluation.
How do I find out if I have asthma?
It can be hard to tell if someone has asthma, especially in children under age 5. Having a doctor check how well your lungs work, and determine if you have allergies, can help you find out if you have asthma.
During a checkup, the doctor will ask you:
- If you cough a lot, especially at night
- If you have breathing problems that worsen after physical activity
- If you have breathing programs that worsen at certain times of year
- If you have chest tightness, wheezing or colds lasting more than 10 days
- If you have missed school or work
- If you have trouble completing daily activities without feeling short-of-breath
- If anyone in your family has, or has had, asthma, allergies or other breathing problems
Questions about your home
The doctor will also do a breathing test to find out how well your lungs are working. This test is called a spirometry. The doctor will use a computer with a mouthpiece to test how much air you can breathe out after taking a very deep breath in. The spirometer can measure airflow before and after you use asthma medicine.
Free Asthma Education and Services
Learn how to identify asthma and asthma-related symptoms and what irritants trigger an attack.
We offer free asthma education and services for you and your family members. Learn how to identify asthma and asthma-related symptoms, and what irritants trigger an attack.