Asthma

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Ease the wheezing

Asthma is a common lung disease in which the lung’s airways become inflamed or irritated, causing difficulty breathing, chest tightness, nighttime or early morning coughing, or wheezing. Wheezing is a high-pitched sound heard while you're breathing.

Many people with asthma are sensitive to allergens, such as pollen, animal dander, dust, or mold. Irritants, like smoke, pollution and strong chemicals can also affect your airways.

Do you have asthma?

If you answer "yes" to any of the following questions, make an appointment with your doctor, to find out if you have asthma.

  • Do you cough at night often?
  • Do your colds go to your chest?
  • Do you wheeze frequently when you get a cold?
  • Have you had bronchitis several times?
  • Do you cough or wheeze after exercising?
  • Do pollen, animal dander, cold air, or high pollution days make you cough or wheeze?
  • Do you use an over-the-counter asthma inhaler or borrow a family member’s prescription inhaler?

Follow your action plan

Different people experience asthma differently. You and your doctor need to manage your asthma in a way that works well for you. With your doctor’s help, and an action plan, you can control your asthma and be free of symptoms most of the time.

When your asthma is well-managed, you:

  • sleep better
  • can exercise
  • don't have symptoms, like wheezing, chest tightness or coughing
  • don't miss work or school due to asthma symptoms
  • don't have to go to the emergency room or hospital due to asthma

Reviewed by: William Crawford, MD, December 2015
Additional Kaiser Permanente reviewers

© 2015 Kaiser Permanente