Living with and controlling asthma

Asthma can be painful and frightening. Nobody wants to feel like they can’t breathe. If you think you may have asthma, talk to your doctor. There are tests and treatments to help you breathe easier—literally. 

What is asthma?

Asthma occurs in the lungs when they get inflamed or swollen. This irritation can cause spasms when you take a breath, which makes it hard to breathe. Sounds simple, but diagnosing asthma can be difficult, especially in children under age five. To find out if you or your child have asthma, see your doctor or healthcare provider. They will check for allergies and test your lung health. They may ask questions like these:

  • Are your breathing problems worse after exercise?
  • Do they occur during certain times of the year?
  • Do you have chest tightness and/or wheezing?
  • Do you have colds that last more than 10 days?
  • Do you have trouble doing certain activities?
  • Is there a family history of asthma, allergies, or other breathing problems?

Your doctor may also do a breathing test called spirometry. This exam shows how well your lungs are working. It measures how much air you can breathe out after taking a deep breath in.

Woman stretching outdoors

What is an asthma attack?

An asthma attack can be scary because it feels like you're not getting enough breath into your lungs. An attack may include:

  • chest tightness
  • coughing
  • trouble breathing
  • wheezing

The panic a person feels can make these symptoms worse. So it’s good to know the early warning signs of an attack.

Know the symptoms of an asthma attack:

  • short tempered or irritable mood
  • dark bags under the eyes
  • fatigue
  • feeling nervous or edgy

Managing an asthma attack

You can control your asthma by staying away from things that cause an attack. These are called “triggers.” Every asthma sufferer has different asthma triggers. Know what your triggers are and do your best to avoid them. If you can’t avoid a trigger, be prepared for an asthma attack. Keep on hand the prescribed medications and other treatments your doctor or healthcare professional provides.

Some of the most common triggers are:

  • cockroach allergens
  • dust mites
  • infection, like the flu
  • mold
  • outdoor air pollution
  • pets
  • smoke from burning wood or grass
  • tobacco smoke

Get your asthma treated

The best step to avoid asthma attacks is to get treated by your doctor or healthcare professional. Medicines are available to help your lungs function properly.

Not all people take the same medicine. Some medicines are inhalers (you breathe the medicine in) and others are pills. Some medicines are quick-relief and others are long-term control. Quick-relief is typically prescribed to control symptoms of an asthma attack. Long-term control medicines help you have fewer and milder attacks, but do not work when you are actually having an attack.

Help for members

Our members can work with registered nurses and licensed social workers. They provide support, education, and coordination of services for complex medical needs like asthma. Get more information about our care management programs or call us at 855.924.6448.

Interested in health and wellness information? Visit Capital Journal for more articles. 
Interested in drug information? Visit our prescription education section.

Sources: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Medlineplus

The information provided is meant for a general audience. Capital Blue Cross and its affiliated companies believe this health education resource provides useful information but does not assume any liability associated with its use.