With asthma, the lining of the airways in the lungs becomes inflamed and sensitive. When exposed to certain triggers, the airways narrow, making it difficult to breathe. Swelling of the lining, increased production of mucus and constriction of the muscles around the airways all contribute to this narrowing.

Symptoms of asthma include wheezing (a high pitch raspy sound or whistle on breathing), coughing, tightness in the chest and shortness of breath. Symptoms may be mild, moderate or severe, and may be intermittent (episodic) or persistent (chronic). The underlying cause of asthma remains unclear, but in many cases there is a family history of allergy.


Common asthma triggers include:

  • colds and chest infections
  • allergens (eg house dust mites and pollens)
  • cigarette smoke
  • air pollution
  • exercise
  • cold air
  • stress

Asthma medications aim to suppress or control inflammation in the airways. These include short-acting relievers to open up airways, preventers to reduce the inflammation in the airways, long-acting symptom controllers and combination medication inhalers containing a preventer and a symptom controller.

A personalised written Asthma Action Plan prepared with your doctor is the best way to manage your asthma.

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