What is asthma?

Asthma is a chronic (long-term) inflammatory disease of the airways — the tubes that carry air in and out of the lungs.

Having asthma means that your airways are hyperactive or more sensitive than normal. When exposed to certain asthma triggers, the airways narrow (known as bronchoconstriction), reducing the airflow in and out of your lungs. The lining of your airways may also swell and produce sticky mucus.

Click to expand How airways respond when exposed to asthma triggers

When exposed to certain asthma triggers, the airways narrow, reducing the airflow in and out of your lungs. Click image to enlarge. Image: Alila Medical Media/shutterstock.com

Asthma symptoms

Asthma causes episodes of wheezing (a whistling noise when you breathe), breathlessness and tightness of the chest. The severity and frequency of asthma symptoms vary from person to person. An acute episode of asthma (often called an 'asthma attack') can be serious, even life-threatening.

Good asthma control

There is no cure for asthma, but with the support of your health professionals you can manage the symptoms and help to prevent your asthma worsening. You can gain good asthma control by:

Your Asthma Action Plan should include how to use your medicines when your asthma is under control, and what to do when you’re having an asthma attack.

Find out more

References
  1. Asthma Australia (2013). Exercise-induced asthma. [online] (Accessed 10 April 2014).
  2. Asthma Australia (2013). Taking control of your asthma. [online] (Accessed 10 April 2014).
  3. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (2011). Asthma in Australia 2011: with a focus chapter on chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (Cat. no. ACM 22.). [online] Canberra: Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. (Accessed 10 April 2014).
  4. Department of Health and Ageing & National Asthma Council Australia (2004). Asthma and lung function tests: an information paper for health professionals. [full text] Canberra: Department of Health and Ageing. (Accessed 10 April 2014).
  5. Global Initiative for Asthma (GINA) (2011). Guidelines and reports. [full text] (Accessed 10 April 2014).
  6. Lazarus S. C. (2010). Clinical practice: emergency treatment of asthma. New England Journal of Medicine 2010;363:755–64. [PubMed] (Accessed 10 April 2014).
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  10. National Health Service (2010). Asthma in children. [online] London: National Health Service (NHS). (Accessed 10 April 2014).
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  12. National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (2011). Omalizumab for severe persistent allergic asthma. [online] London: National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE). (Accessed 10 April 2014).
  13. Rossi, S. Ed. (2014). Australian Medicines Handbook. [online] Adelaide: Australian Medicines Handbook. (Accessed 10 April 2014).
  14. Royal Children’s Hospital Melbourne (2013). Fact sheet: asthma. [online] Melbourne: Royal Children’s Hospital (RCH). (Accessed 10 April 2014).
  15. Royal Children’s Hospital Melbourne (2013). Fact sheet: asthma — use of spacers. [online] Melbourne: Royal Children’s Hospital (RCH). (Accessed 10 April 2014).
  16. Royal Children’s Hospital Melbourne (2013). Fact sheet: bronchiolitis. [online] Melbourne: Royal Children’s Hospital (RCH). (Accessed 10 April 2014).
  17. Sweetman S, ed. Martindale: The complete drug reference. [online] Thomson Micromedex, London: Pharmaceutical Press. (Accessed 10 April 2014).
  18. The Asthma Foundation of NSW (2006). Healthy pregnancy for women with asthma: an information paper for health professionals. [full text] Sydney: The Asthma Foundation of NSW. (Accessed 10 April 2014).
  19. Therapeutic Guidelines Ltd. (2014). Therapeutic guidelines complete 2014: asthma (eTG42). [online] (Accessed 10 April 2014).

The relevant consumer medicine information (CMI) and product information (PI) have been consulted for every medicine discussed.

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