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Reviewed by Dr Karina Palad, MD
Written by updoc's Editorial Team
Published 14 July 2023

What You Need To Know About Asthma

Asthma is a chronic respiratory condition that affects millions of people worldwide. It is characterised by inflammation and narrowing of the airways, leading to episodes of wheezing, coughing, chest tightness, and shortness of breath.


Recognizing the symptoms of asthma is crucial for early detection and effective management. While symptoms can vary from person to person, some common signs of asthma include:

Wheezing: A whistling sound when breathing, especially during exhalation

Coughing: A persistent, dry cough that often worsens at night or with physical activity

Chest tightness: A sensation of pressure or constriction in the chest

Shortness of breath: Difficulty in breathing, feeling out of breath, or unable to take deep breaths

It's important to note that not everyone experiences the same symptoms, and the severity of symptoms can also vary. Some individuals may have mild asthma symptoms that occur infrequently, while others may have more severe and frequent episodes.


The exact cause of asthma is still not fully understood. However, several factors can contribute to the development of asthma, including:

Genetic Factors: Asthma tends to run in families, suggesting a genetic predisposition. If one or both parents have asthma, the chances of their children developing it are higher.

Environmental Factors: Exposure to certain environmental triggers, such as allergens (e.g., pollen, dust mites, pet dander), air pollution, and tobacco smoke, can increase the risk of developing asthma or triggering asthma symptoms.

Respiratory Infections: Early respiratory infections, especially in childhood, have been linked to the development of asthma. Viral infections, such as the common cold or respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), can trigger asthma symptoms in some individuals.

It's important to note that while these factors can increase the risk of developing asthma, they do not guarantee its occurrence. Asthma is a complex condition influenced by a combination of genetic and environmental factors.


If you suspect you might have asthma or are experiencing symptoms suggestive of asthma, it is crucial to consult a healthcare professional for an accurate diagnosis. The diagnosis of asthma typically involves:

Medical History: Your doctor will ask about your symptoms, their frequency and intensity, as well as any triggers that seem to worsen your symptoms.

Physical Examination: Your doctor will listen to your breathing using a stethoscope and examine your chest for any signs of respiratory distress.

Lung Function Tests: Pulmonary function tests, such as spirometry, measure how well your lungs function. These tests can help determine if there is airflow obstruction consistent with asthma.

Allergy Testing: Allergy tests may be recommended to identify specific allergens that could be triggering your asthma symptoms.

It is essential to undergo a proper evaluation to rule out other possible causes of your symptoms and receive an accurate diagnosis. Once diagnosed, you can work with your healthcare provider to develop an individualized asthma management plan.


Asthma is a chronic condition that cannot be cured, but it can be effectively managed with the right treatment approach. The goals of asthma treatment are to control symptoms, prevent asthma attacks, maintain normal lung function, and enable individuals to lead active lives. The treatment plan for asthma may vary depending on the severity of symptoms, triggers, and individual factors.

Medication taken regularly to manage and control asthma symptoms by reducing inflammation and relaxing the airway muscles, while quick-relief medications provide immediate relief during asthma attacks.

Inhaler & Devices such as metered-dose inhalers (MDIs), dry powder inhalers (DPIs), and nebulizers, are used to deliver medication directly to the lungs, helping individuals manage their asthma symptoms effectively.

Allergen Avoidance involves identifying and avoiding triggers like pollen, dust mites, and pet dander that can worsen asthma symptoms.

Lifestyle Modifications including regular exercise, a healthy diet, maintaining a healthy weight, and avoiding smoking and secondhand smoke, contribute to overall lung health

Asthma Action Plans are developed with healthcare practitioners, to identify the steps to take to manage

Frequently Asked Questions

What Is the Main Cause of Asthma?
The exact cause of asthma remains unclear, but it is likely a combination of genetic and environmental factors. Inherited susceptibility, along with exposure to allergens, respiratory infections, and irritants, can contribute to the development of asthma in susceptible individuals.
What Are Three Common Symptoms of Asthma?
Three common symptoms of asthma include wheezing (a whistling sound when breathing), coughing (especially at night or with physical activity), and shortness of breath or difficulty breathing.
What Are the Warning Signs of Asthma?
Recognizing the warning signs of an impending asthma attack is crucial for prompt intervention. These signs may include increased coughing, chest tightness, shortness of breath, and a decrease in peak flow readings (a measurement of how well air moves out of the lungs).
What Are the Three Types of Asthma Attacks?
Asthma can be classified into three types: mild attacks, moderate attacks, and severe attacks.
What Foods Can Trigger Asthma?
Food-induced asthma is relatively uncommon. Most asthma triggers are related to environmental factors like allergens, irritants, or exercise.
How can a healthcare practitioner help?
Healthcare practitioners will be able to give you medical advice on your concerns about asthma. They will be able to diagnose, provide treatment plans and more.

Disclaimer: this can affect individuals differently and on a case by case basis. It it best to consult with your health practitioner to seek medical advice and receive a personalised diagnosis, and treatment plan.

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