Could you be living with asthma? From symptoms to diagnosis, and what to do next

Do you think you might have asthma? If you often suffer from coughing, wheezing, breathlessness and tightness in your chest, you may want to visit your doctor and discuss your symptoms. While asthma has no cure, it can be well managed after diagnosis and understanding symptoms and triggers, which vary for each person. If you often experience similar symptoms, read on to find out what you can do next.

What is asthma?

Asthma is a respiratory condition which occurs from hypersensitivity (like an over-reaction), redness and swelling of the airways, causing the symptoms mentioned above. Each person who is diagnosed can suffer from the symptoms at a different level. Asthma can also develop at any age, and likewise, symptoms can improve or worsen over the years for those living with it.

Some people with asthma suffer from extreme symptoms from time to time, which are known as asthma attacks. These can also vary in severity, but sometimes require emergency treatment when the person is unable to breathe.

Do these symptoms sound familiar?

Even though the symptoms may be different for each person, if you have asthma you are likely experiencing one or some of the following:

Feeling breathless or gasping for breath

  • a tight chest, like a band tightening around it
  • wheezing, a whistling sound when you breathe
  • coughing, especially in the early morning and evening
  • attacks, or more severe symptoms triggered by exercise
  • attacks triggered after exposure to allergens (allergy triggering substances such as dust or animal hair) and other triggers
  • waking in the night with these symptoms

What triggers your symptoms?

Symptoms of asthma are often caused by triggers which irritate the airways and initiate the symptoms. Common triggers that you may go through include:

  • house dust mites
  • pollen
  • exercise
  • tobacco smoke
  • animal fur
  • chest infections
  • cold air

However, you might experience different triggers. Knowing when you get certain symptoms can help you to identify the cause.

If you are having an asthma attack,

you may also experience the following:

  • the reliever inhaler, which is usually blue, does not help symptoms at all
  • the symptoms of wheezing, coughing, tight chest are severe and constant
  • you are too breathless to speak in sentences
  • your pulse is racing
  • you feel agitated or restless
  • your lips or fingernails look blue

If you or someone you are with develops these symptoms, get emergency help immediately and call (000). If someone you know lives with asthma, you can help them in an emergency situation by having knowledge of emergency asthma first aid. Even if you’re not sure that the person is having an asthma attack, you can use the first aid steps anyway. This should not harm the person even if it’s not an asthma attack.

You can learn more about emergency asthma first aid on the National Asthma Council website.

Getting the diagnosis

Your doctor will make a diagnosis after speaking to you, examining you and performing some breathing tests. They will also want to know all about your symptoms, how often you experience them and how severe they are. If you are tracking your symptoms with Wanngi’s symptoms management, you will be able to show your doctor a timeline of your symptoms with all the details, and even note anything you think may have triggered the symptoms.

Other factors they may take into account are:

  • whether or not your symptoms improve with medicine or anti-asthma treatment
  • your medical, and family history
  • whether you have allergies
  • what things or situations cause you to have symptoms (your triggers)
  • your lung function (possibly using breathing tests for this)

Asthma can develop at any age, just as the symptoms can improve or disappear altogether after time. Every case is unique, but it is likely that if you experience moderate or severe symptoms as a child, they will persist or return at some point in your adult life.

If you are visiting the doctor because you suspect you may have asthma, they will also want to know any medication you are currently taking, whether or not you smoke or are exposed to smoking, and details of your home and work environment that may help them understand what triggers your symptoms.

Living with asthma

There is currently no cure for asthma. Your health professionals will help you during treatment to both relieve your symptoms and prevent asthma attacks from developing in the future.

It is important after you are diagnosed to learn and be able to identify what triggers your symptoms. This will aid you in avoiding these triggers to minimise the risk of experiencing an attack. Your doctor will help you discover the balance of medicine and lifestyle choices to minimise attacks.

With your doctor you can also develop a self-management plan, so you know what to do if you have an asthma attack, and manage your symptoms on a daily basis.

Community and support

Many people live with asthma and this means there are many support groups out there, which are especially helpful if you or a family member has been recently diagnosed. Support groups are a perfect place to learn more about others’ experiences and share your own.

For more information on asthma, you can visit Asthma Australia website or the National Asthma Council website, or call Asthma Assist on 1800 ASTHMA (1800 278 462).

Start managing your symptoms now, whether you live with asthma, an ongoing health condition or you simply want to track your health. You can sign up for a free trial of Wanngi, or visit our website and blog to learn more!

Got questions? Email us at hello@wanngi.com. We would love to hear from you!