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ASTHMA PATIENT INFORMATION LEAFLET Being told you or someone you love has Asthma can be a very overwhelming and frightening experience The medical information you receive may be confusing and difficult to understand at times It is important to remember that you are not alone and there are things you can do to help manage the symptoms and improve your overall quality of life The following gives a brief outline of Asthma and will help to answer some questions you may have What Is Asthma Asthma is a condition that affects the airways the small tubes that carry air in and out of the lungs In asthma the airways become over sensitive meaning that they react to things that wouldn t usually cause a problem such as cold air or dust When the airways react to one of these the muscles of the tube walls tighten up making them narrow and leaving little room for air to flow in and out The lining of the airways then gets swollen just like your nose during a cold and sticky mucus is produced which clogs up the breathing passages making it difficult to breath Asthma is not infectious What Causes Asthma We still don t know the exact cause of asthma but we do know that anyone can develop asthma and it is particularly common in Ireland It often begins in childhood but it can start at any age

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Other commonalities seen with asthma include It runs in families e g if you have parents or brother and sisters with asthma then you are more likely to have it yourself If you or your family members have hay fever or eczema you are more likely to develop asthma Adult onset asthma can develop after a respiratory tract infection colds flu chest infections It s thought that modern changes to housing diet and cleanliness may have contributed to the rise in asthma over the last few decades Smoking during pregnancy or exposing a child to tobacco smoke will increase their risk of developing asthma Being overweight increases the risk of developing asthma Some children lose their symptoms as they grow older but asthma is a chronic disease so it never fully goes

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What Tests Are Performed To Confirm Asthma Sometimes symptoms are typical and the diagnosis is easily made by a doctor If there is doubt then some simple tests may be arranged A commonly used test is spirometry Spirometry is a test which measures how much air you can blow out into a machine called a spirometer Your age height and sex affect your lung volume So your results are compared with the average predicted for your age height and sex Note Spirometry may be normal in people with asthma who do not have any symptoms when the test is done Remember the symptoms of asthma typically come and go Therefore a normal result does not rule out asthma However if your symptoms suggest that you have asthma ideally the test should be repeated when your symptoms are present Skin prick tests also known allergy tests and other tests such as a Mannitol challenge may help with diagnosing allergic or atopic asthma How Is Asthma Treated Inhalers Most people with asthma are treated with inhalers Inhalers deliver a small dose of medicine directly to the airways This medicine aims to open up the airways that have become tight There are inhalers that prevent tightening happening preventative and ones that ease open the airways if they become tight reliever Tablets Most people do not need tablets as inhalers usually work well However in some cases a tablet is prescribed in addition to inhalers if symptoms are not fully eased by inhalers alone Various tablets may be used which aim to open up the airways SLIT Another added treatment option for patients is called SLIT sublingual immunotherapy This medicine is widely

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used for those patients with allergy specific asthma This option can be discussed with your doctor Steroid Tablets A short course of steroid tablets such as prednisolone is sometimes needed to ease a severe or prolonged attack of asthma Steroid tablets are good at reducing the inflammation in the airways For example a severe attack may occur if you have a cold or a chest infection What Is Exercise induced Asthma EIA Exercise can cause shortness of breath in anyone Airflow obstruction that occurs because of exercise is exerciseinduced bronchoconstriction EIB An older term for this condition is exercise induced asthma This term wrongly suggests that exercise causes asthma As many as 90 of all people who have asthma will experience symptoms of EIB during exercise For teenagers and young adults this may be the most common cause of asthma symptoms Exercise induced asthma is very common in Ireland Exercise tests can help diagnose EIA What You Can Do To Help With Your Asthma Try to stop smoking completely and avoid second hand smoke Avoid contact with anyone who has a cold or a chest infection and wash your hands often If you think you have a chest infection see your doctor Get your flu vaccine every autumn Try to do some gentle exercise every day Ask your doctor for advice Dry air can make you cough make the air more moist with a humidifier or by placing a bowl of water on a window ledge Breathing through your mouth can make you dehydrated so try to drink plenty of fluids such as water and fruit juices Try to eat little and often for example five small meals rather than three large ones A full stomach after a large meal will make it more difficult for you to breathe If you have any queries about your Asthma diagnosis or medications that you are on speak with your pharmacist or call the Respiratory Liaison Nurse at Beacon who will be happy to help with any queries you may have

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Beacon Hospital Sandyford Dublin 18 D18 AK68 Tel 01 293 6600 www beaconhospital ie