Reactive Airway Disease: Care Instructions

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Normal and inflamed airways

Your Care Instructions

Reactive airway disease is a breathing problem that appears as wheezing, a whistling noise in your airways. It may be caused by a viral or bacterial infection, allergies, tobacco smoke, or something else in the environment. When you are around these triggers, your body releases chemicals that make the airways get tight.

Reactive airway disease is a lot like asthma. Both can cause wheezing. But asthma is ongoing, while reactive airway disease may occur only now and then. Tests can be done to tell whether you have asthma. You may take the same medicines used to treat asthma. Good home care and follow-up care with your doctor can help you recover.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

How can you care for yourself at home?

  • Take your medicines exactly as prescribed. Call your doctor if you think you are having a problem with your medicine.
  • Do not smoke or allow others to smoke around you. If you need help quitting, talk to your doctor about stop-smoking programs and medicines. These can increase your chances of quitting for good.
  • If you know what caused your wheezing (such as perfume or the odor of household chemicals), try to avoid it in the future.
  • Wash your hands several times a day, and consider using hand gels or wipes that contain alcohol. This can prevent colds and other infections.

When should you call for help?

Call 911 anytime you think you may need emergency care. For example, call if:

  • You have severe trouble breathing.

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor if:

  • You cough up yellow, dark brown, or bloody mucus.
  • You have a fever.
  • Your wheezing gets worse.

Where can you learn more?

Go to

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The Health Encyclopedia contains general health information. Not all treatments or services described are covered benefits for Kaiser Permanente members or offered as services by Kaiser Permanente. For a list of covered benefits, please refer to your Evidence of Coverage or Summary Plan Description. For recommended treatments, please consult with your health care provider.