What is Asthma?
Asthma is a chronic lung disease that results
in changes in the airway.
ξ Muscles become tight around the
ξ Airway walls thicken
ξ Thick mucus is produced in the
ξ Airways become “twitchy” or are
quick to react to triggers
*Asthma cannot be cured, but it can be
What are Symptoms of Asthma?
Symptoms of asthma vary from person to
person. They can worsen when exposed to
asthma triggers. These symptoms may
ξ Coughing, which often occurs at
night, with exercise, or in the cold.
ξ Wheezing, a whistling sound when
ξ Shortness of breath or the feeling of
breathing through a straw.
ξ Chest tightness.
What Causes or Triggers Symptoms of
People with asthma have sensitive airways
that react to “triggers.” Although we do not
know the exact cause of asthma, possible
triggers are listed below.
ξ Infections (such as colds or sinus
ξ Allergens (such as pets, dust mites,
pollens, molds, or foods)
ξ Cold air and/or hot, humid air
ξ Changes in weather
ξ Irritants (such as tobacco smoke,
perfume, air fresheners, or pollution)
ξ Emotions (such as stress, laughter, or
ξ Aspirin or aspirin-like medicines
The best asthma treatment plan is to avoid
triggers as much as you can! Your asthma
care clinic will have more information about
triggers and how to avoid them.
Being around people who are smoking can
cause serious harm to your lungs. To
receive help to quit smoking, please call the
Wisconsin Quit Line at 1-800-QUIT- NOW
Can Asthma Symptoms Be Controlled?
Yes. Although asthma cannot be cured,
there are ways to control it. With treatment,
you can exercise and sleep through the night
without coughing or wheezing. It is vital to
follow your asthma action plan given to you
by your asthma care team. This plan
ξ Being aware of warning signs of
ξ Learning about asthma triggers and
how to avoid them as much as you
ξ Taking allergy and asthma medicines
as prescribed to both control and
ξ Checking peak flows (if part of the
ξ Follow-up visits every 6 months with
your asthma care clinic.
ξ Extra visits to your asthma clinic if
How is Asthma Treated?
You must take charge to both avoid and treat
breathing problems. Asthma may be treated
with the following.
ξ Controller (such as Flovent®,
Advair®, Symbicort®, Dulera®,
Singulair®): Medicines that are
taken every day to help control
ξ Rescue (such as albuterol,
Proventil®, Ventolin®, ProAir®,
Xopenex®): Quick relief medicines
that act within minutes to help
relieve cough and wheezing by
relaxing the airway muscles.
o Rescue medicines may also
be used before exercise
and/or allergen exposure to
ξ Becoming anxious can make asthma
symptoms worse. Taking slow,
deep breaths can help you calm
down during an asthma attack.
ξ Regular exercise to strengthen both
your heart and lungs is very
important if you have asthma.
When should I call the clinic?
ξ If your asthma is not well controlled.
If your symptoms cause problems
with sleeping, exercise, school or
ξ If you are using quick relief
medicine (albuterol) 2 or more times
a week during the day (except for
ξ If you are waking up 2 or more times
a month due to asthma symptoms.
ξ If your asthma symptoms are worse
(coughing, wheezing, chest
When should I call 911 or seek emergency
ξ Severe pulling in of neck or chest
muscles to breathe
ξ Albuterol (rescue medicine) isn’t
ξ Not able to speak or talk because of
ξ Lips or finger nails look blue
The Spanish version of this Health Facts
for You is #5121s.
Adapted 4/11/2011 with permission from Dane County Asthma Coalition 2007. Your health care team may have
given you this information as part of your care. If so, please use it and call if you have any questions. If this
information was not given to you as part of your care, please check with your doctor. This is not medical advice. This
is not to be used for diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. Because each person’s health needs are
different, you should talk with your doctor or others on your health care team when using this information. If you have
an emergency, please call 911. Copyright ©2/2017. University of Wisconsin Hospitals and Clinics Authority. All rights
reserved. Produced by the Department of Nursing. HF#5121.