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Common Ailments

Asthma

What is asthma?
Asthma is a condition described as excessive hyperactivity of the bronchia and subsequent narrowing that later produces wheezing. During asthma the muscles around the bronchial tubes contract or get tight, and this makes the bronchial tubes smaller thus reducing the space the air has to move in and out of the lungs. Also with bronchial constriction there is edema or swelling of the tissue inside the bronchial walls and excessive mucus production. This mucus is thick and plugs up the airway causing difficulty in breathing.

Symptoms of asthma
Knowing early signs of asthma can help control or treat asthma effectively and reduce the risk of severe attack. These are:

- Frequent upper respiratory infection with wheezing.
- Cough, usually dry, tight, and non-productive.
- Shortness of breath or difficulty in breathing.
- Feeling of tightness or pressure in the chest and wheezing.

Diagnosis of asthma
Diagnosis is based on several factors:

- A pattern of recurrent wheezing, shortness of breath, congested cough or cough that often subsides when activity is stopped.
- History of frequent upper respiratory infections with wheezing.
- Wheezing may not always be present; the lungs may be so tight that not enough air is moving through the bronchial passages.

Asthma triggers
In asthma, broncho-constriction usually occurs following exposure to triggers. Common triggers are different for each person and include allergens (things that people are allergic to) such as pollens, dust, animal dander/hair. Triggers are also infections, i.e., sinus infections, weather changes, medications, food, food additives and preservatives, exercise induced asthma and stress or emotional factors.

What you can do
Asthma usually responds well to medications such as bronchodilators that reduce the constriction of the bronchial tubes. These bronchodilators come in inhaled form, which is frequently used now because of the quicker response. If you have asthma medications use them as soon as the symptoms start.

- Rest to relieve weakness and muscular aches, avoid becoming fatigued, take time from school or work to rest.
- Drink lots of fluids to help the mucus from getting too thick.
- Don't smoke. Smoking acts as an irritant to the lungs and this can worsen symptoms.

Consult health care personnel:

- If symptoms don't improve with over-the-counter or prescribed medications.
- If symptoms get worse or new ones appear.
- If fever over 101 degrees F, shortness of breath, persistent cough or asthmatic wheezing is present.
- If your peak flow is below normal for you. Ask your doctor more about this.

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