What is asthma?
Asthma is a chronic disease that affects your airways - the tubes that carry air in and out of your lungs. If you have asthma, the inside walls of your airways can become swollen. The airways are very sensitive and tend to react strongly to things to which you are allergic or find irritating. When the airways react, they get narrower and less air flows through to your lungs. This causes symptoms like wheezing (a whistling sound when you breathe), coughing, chest tightness, and trouble breathing.
Facts about asthma
- Asthma affects people of all ages.
- Asthma often starts in childhood and is more common in boys than girls. But as adults, more women have asthma than men.
- In the United States, about 20 million people have asthma and nearly 9 million of them are children.
- Asthma is often linked to allergies.
- Children who have family members with allergies and/or asthma are more likely to have asthma.
How Is Asthma Diagnosed?
Some things your Primary Care Practitioner/Family Practitioner will ask about include:
- Periods of coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath, or chest tightness that come on suddenly, occur often, or seem to happen during certain times of the year or season;
- Colds that seem to "go to the chest" or take more than 10 days to get over;
- Medicines you may have used to help your breathing;
- Your family history of asthma and allergies; and
- Things that seem to cause your symptoms or make them worse.
Your Primary Care Practitioner/Family Practitioner will listen to your breathing and look for signs of asthma or allergies. He or she will probably use a device called a spirometer (speh-ROM-et-er) to check how your lungs are working. This test is called spirometry (speh-ROM-eh-tree). The test measures how much air you can blow out of your lungs after taking a deep breath, and how fast you can do it. The results will be lower than normal if your airways are inflamed and swollen, or if the muscles around your airways have tightened up.
Presbyterian Health Plan and Presbyterian Insurance Company Asthma Management Program
If you or your child has asthma, Presbyterian Health Plan and Presbyterian Insurance Company, Inc. (Presbyterian) can help you:
- Learn about asthma and your asthma triggers.
- Manage asthma with tools like peak flow meters.
- Understand how asthma medicines work and how they need to be taken.
- Avoid asthma emergencies.
- Stay healthy and feel well.
The Asthma Management Program includes:
- Asthma Toolkit
- Educational materials to assist with asthma self-management.
- Peak flow meters available by prescription at local pharmacies at no cost to members.
- Spacer attachments for inhalers if needed.
- Asthma action plans to help understand what to do when asthma gets worse.
- For members whose asthma is not in control, Presbyterian has asthma case managers who will work with members and their families to help them better understand and manage asthma. This is most important if an asthma attack results in a visit to the emergency room or the hospital.
For more information contact:
Health Services Department
Presbyterian Health Plan
Create an Asthma Action Plan
If you have asthma, it is important to learn how to take care of yourself. Work with your Primary Care Practitioner/Family Practitioner to make an action plan that makes you both happy.
- Tell your Primary Care Practitioner/Family Practitioner about all other medications you are taking, in case one of them affects your asthma.
- Follow your asthma action plan.
- Have regular checkups.
- Learn to use your medications correctly. Ask your health care to teach you how to use your inhaler. This is very important. If inhalers are not used correctly, less medication gets into the airways.
- If you are having problems taking your asthma medicine, let your Primary Care Practitioner/Family Practitioner know right away.
Be alert for warning signs of an asthma attack.
- Watch for symptoms (coughing, wheezing, chest tightness, and difficulty breathing) and use your medication as directed by your Primary Care Practitioner/Family Practitioner.
- Use your peak flow meter as directed to monitor your asthma.
Is my asthma getting worse?
The following symptoms may indicate that your asthma is not under control. Do not ignore the following warning signs:
- Your asthma symptoms happen more often than usual.
- Your asthma symptoms are worse than they used to be.
- Your asthma symptoms are bothering you a lot at night and making you lose sleep.
- You are missing school or work because of your asthma.
- Your peak flow number is low or varies a lot from day to day.
- Your asthma medications do not seem to be working very well anymore.
- You have to use your short acting "quick relief" or "rescue" inhaler more often. (Using quick relief medicine every day, or using more than one inhaler a month, is too much.)
- You have to go to the emergency room or health care because of an asthma attack.
- You end up in the hospital because of your asthma.
If your asthma seems to be getting worse, see your Primary Care Practitioner/Family Practitioner. You may need to change your medication or do other things to get your asthma under control.