7. Do you have asthma?

What is asthma?

Asthma is a chronic or long-term disease. If you have asthma, at times the air passages of your lungs become inflamed. When this happens, your airways get red and swollen. They become narrow, making it harder for you to breathe. You may also wheeze or cough. Even when you feel good, your airways can be inflamed. Certain things, such as smoke, pollen, dander, mold, dust or infections, may trigger an asthma attack.

How is asthma treated?

Most people with asthma take two kinds of medicines. Controller medicine and rescue medicine help control the inflammation so you feel and breathe better. They stop your airways from reacting to what triggers your asthma.

  • Controller medicines work only if you take them every day.
  • Rescue medicines dilate the airways (make them bigger) and make it easier for you to breathe. These inhaled medicines should only be used for quick relief when you are coughing or wheezing, or when your chest feels tight.

How can I control my asthma?

You can follow this easy two-step program.

Step 1: Avoid anything that you know triggers your asthma or makes it worse. These triggers may include:

  • air pollution, tobacco smoke, perfume or other irritants
  • allergens such as pet dander, pollen, dust and mold
  • infections (get a flu shot every year, avoid people with colds, use good hand washing technique)

Step 2: Take your controller medicines every day.

  • Most of the controller medicines need to be taken once or twice daily.
  • If you have symptoms of asthma more than twice a week or if you wake up during the night with symptoms of asthma more than twice a month, your asthma is not under control. Ask your family doctor to help you get your asthma under control. Then, do your part and take your medicines regularly.

Know the signs that an asthma attack is starting.

Coughing, wheezing, tight chest or waking up at night can all be signs of the start of an asthma attack.  If any of these symptoms occur, use your quick-relief (rescue) medicine and stay calm for one hour to be sure breathing gets better.                  

What if I don’t get better?

Get emergency help from your doctor if you do not get better.  Call your doctor or seek emergency care if you see any of these asthma danger signs:

  • Your quick-relief medicine does not help for very long or it does not help at all.
  • Breathing is still fast and hard.
  • It is hard to walk or talk.
  • Lips or fingernails turn gray or blue.
  • Your nose opens wide when you breathe.
  • Skin is pulled in around the ribs and neck when you breathe.
  • Your heartbeat or pulse is very fast.                                                          

Can I use the quick-relief medicine too much?

Quick-relief medicine for asthma makes you feel better for a while. It may stop the attack. With some attacks, you may think you are getting better but the airways are getting more and more swollen. Then you are in danger of having a very bad asthma attack that could kill you.                                       
If you use quick-relief medicine every day to stop asthma attacks, this means you need a preventive medicine for long-term control.

For additional information:

  • Discuss with your physician.
  • Contact Affinity NurseDirect at 1-800-362-9900 toll-free, (920) 738-2230 in the Fox Cities, or (920) 231-6578 in Oshkosh.

From your Internet connection:

then click on Health Resources
then click on Affinity's 22 Tips for Better Health

Or access the following links:


Information adapted from “Asthma: Controller and Quick-Relief Medicine” familydoctor.org
Reviewed: 1/07 
Reviewer: rfc

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