Asthma Get short of breath and hungry for air easily? Hacking cough that refuse to go away? Watch out for these alarming signs of asthma. Asthma (pronounced as AZ-ma) is difficulty or inability to breathe normally. In medical terms, asthma is a chronic lung disease characterised by inflammation (swelling) and narrowing of air passage resulting in wheezing (a whistling sound that comes out on breathing), shortness of breath, a feeling of tightness in chest and coughing.

Sign and symptoms of asthma: These can be divided into two categories:

Warning symptoms: Some symptoms of asthma develop days before the actual breathing tests show a considerable decline in lung function. Where as in some, the symptoms develop suddenly and they can range from:

  • Cough with physical activity
  • Increased cough at the night time
  • Worsening of allergy symptoms like runny nose and itchy or inflamed skin
  • Rapid pulse and sweating

Classical signs: The classic signs of an asthma attack include:

  • Hacking cough: Coughing in chronic asthma is often worse at night or early in the morning, leading to difficulty to sleep.
  • Wheezing: It is a whistling or squeaky sound that is loud enough to be heard when the patient breaths.
  • Tightness of chest: It may feel like as if someone is squeezing the chest tight or sitting on the chest.
  • Shortness of breath: Patients feel out of breath on physical activity and fail to catch their breath after even little excursion.
  • In severe cases bluish discoloration of lips and face may appear because of decreased oxygen in blood.
  • Retraction (withdrawal inside) of inter costal spaces of ribs.

Causes: Like many other diseases, exact cause of asthma is still unknown. The factors that can be held responsible for initiating and altering immunity, which eventually leads to chronic asthma, can be:

  • Atopy (an inherited tendency to develop allergies)
  • Hereditary/genetic
  • Environmental reasons such as pollution and pollen
  • Internal or “homely allergens” like house dust mites, cockroaches, cat or dog
  • Mental stress
  • Irritants like smoke, tobacco or perfumes
  • Some respiratory infections during childhood
  • Certain non-steroidal anti inflammatory medicines
  • Cold, windy or humid weather conditions
  • Specific food allergies may trigger an asthma attack


Asthma triggers: A trigger is any substance or condition that irritates the lung’s air passage and causes the symptoms of asthma. There can be a number of possible triggers and they also vary for each individual but some common ones can be house dust mites, tobacco smoke, chemical irritants like cement, coal, asbestos, or paint, mining, pesticides, sulphur, sugar, air pollution and allergens like pollens. Sometimes even laughing extensively, crying or sudden change in weather also prove as potential triggers. Asthma Treatment: Although asthma is one of those conditions which cannot be completely cured but can be successfully managed and controlled. Asthma treatment and management includes:

  • Avoiding asthma triggers and environmental control, if possible.
  • Bronchodilators as medication to open up lung airway and reduce the inflammation in the air passage’s lining. These are classically inhaled corticosteroids.
  • Education on the subject to understand the disease better and action plan to act appropriately at the time of an asthma attack.

Asthma Prevention: By using appropriate Asthma prevention techniques one can protect himself from the triggers that can set off an asthma attack such as,

  • Identifying and avoiding asthma triggers and taking preventive measures
  • Preparing a dedicated asthma plan
  • Treating attacks at earliest
  • Taking the medicines regularly and correctly