By Marijke Vroomen Durning, RN
Asthma touches so many people—if you don’t have it yourself, there’s a good chance you know at least one person who does. According to the National Institutes of Health, more than 25 million people in the United States have been diagnosed with asthma—and there are likely many who endure its symptoms (wheezing, coughing, shortness of breath) but haven’t been diagnosed.
Managing the Attacks
Asthma is a chronic respiratory, or lung disease caused by inflammation of the small airways. Symptoms usually begin in childhood, but adults can develop asthma later on in life. It can’t be cured, but you can usually manage asthma with medications—most often inhalers (or “puffers”). However, people with asthma may be able to reduce how often they have an attack (called exacerbations) with some simple lifestyle changes. These won’t eliminate the attacks completely, but they can make a difference.
So, what kinds of activities are we talking about? The obvious ones are to avoid triggers, such as cigarette smoke and allergens, and to be careful when suddenly exposed to cold winter air. Participating in physical activity is good for people with asthma, but you should speak with your doctor about what type of exercise is best for you, especially if you have exercise-induced asthma.