Asthma: What You Need to Know

Asthma is a common lung condition. Read on to learn more about its symptoms and common triggers, how to tell if you have asthma, and how asthma can be controlled.

What is asthma?

Asthma is a lung disease that affects normal breathing. About 2.2 million Canadians have it. With asthma, the lungs are very sensitive to different triggers like dust or pollen. This causes your lungs to become inflamed and swollen.
 
In a person with asthma, the lungs produce excess mucus that plugs the small breathing passages. Also the muscles around the passages tighten up and narrow the tubes we need to breathe. This makes breathing difficult and it causes many of the common symptoms of asthma like:
  • Shortness of breath
  • Coughing
  • Wheezing
  • Chest tightness
 

Common asthma triggers

An asthma trigger is something that will flare up your asthma symptoms and cause your lungs to be inflamed. Some of these triggers include indoor hazards like mould and cigarette smoke. Others can be things like outdoor pollen, cold air, air pollution and infections like a common cold.
 
The most common triggers are:
  • Household dust
  • Mould
  • Pet hair and dander
  • Strong scents
  • Fumes and pollution
  • Pollen
  • Cold air
  • Cigarette smoke

 
 

Coping with dust/mould

Some strategies to avoid household dust or mould include:
  • Use a mattress cover
  • Use pillow cases that are air tight and dust resistant
  • Wash bedding in hot water and dry in a hot dryer at least once a week
  • Use vinyl or leather furniture instead of upholstered furniture
  • Vacuum with a vacuum cleaner with a HEPA filter
  • Limit dust-collecting knick-knacks
  • Keep the humidity low and use a dehumidifier
  • Remove or regularly wash stuffed toys in the bedroom
  • Clean showers and tubs with a 5% bleach cleanser
  • Keep the humidity in the house low
  • Don’t hang bed sheets on the line to dry

 
 

Coping with pet hair/dander

Some strategies to avoid pet hair or dander include:
  • Consider removing the pet from the home. Remember, pet dander will stay in the carpet and furniture for 4 to 6 weeks after a pet is removed from the house
  • Brush the pet outside the house to remove loose hair

 
 

Coping with scents/fumes/smoke

Some strategies to avoid strong scents, fumes, pollution or cigarette smoke include:
  • Avoid using perfume and ask people you live and work with to avoid using them
  • Check your labels and make sure your soap, detergent, dryer sheet and shampoo are scent-free or low-scent
  • Do not heat with wood
  • Avoid open outdoor fires
  • Try to avoid walking on busy roads
  • Wear a protective mask when using chemicals that give off fumes
  • Quit smoking
  • Make your home smoke free. Other smokers in the home should be encouraged to quit and at least smoke outside
  • Stay away from smoky areas

 
 

Coping with pollen

Some strategies to avoid pollen include:
  • Close your windows during allergy season and use an air conditioner
  • Avoid hanging laundry outside
  • Try to spend more time indoors during peak allergy seasons
  • If outside during allergy season, change your clothes and take a shower to remove pollen from your skin and hair

 
 

Coping with cold air

Some strategies to deal with the common asthma trigger of cold air include:
  • Wear a scarf over the mouth and nose to warm the air
  • Breathe through your nose to warm and moisten the air

 
 

The 30 second asthma test

The 30 Second Asthma Test® checks if your asthma is controlled. Answer “yes” or “no”:
 
Do you cough, wheeze, or have a tight chest because of your asthma?
(4 or more days a week)
 
Does coughing, wheezing, or chest tightness wake you at night?
(1 or more times a week)
 
Do you stop exercising because of your asthma?
(in the past 3 months)
 
Do you ever miss school or work because of your asthma?
(in the past 3 months)
 
Do you use your rescue medication (blue puffer) 4 or more times a week?
(except 1 dose per day for exercise)
 
If you answered YES to any question, talk to your doctor about your asthma.

 
 

What is an asthma action plan?

If you don’t have an asthma action plan, consider talking to your doctor or asthma educator.
 
Canadian asthma experts recommend that people with asthma have an asthma action plan. This is a plan that you develop with your doctor or asthma educator on how to monitor your asthma symptoms and use your medications. It provides you with some simple instructions on what to do if your asthma flares up. These plans are really simple to use and can provide instructions if your breathing starts to get worse. Visit BestLifeRewarded™ “Tools” to get your asthma action plan.

 
 

Important information

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This information should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your doctor. There may be variations in treatment that your physician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances. If you have questions about your symptoms, ask the Pharmacist at Walmart for more information, and/or contact your doctor.

 
 
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