Asthma is a common condition that affects the airways. This disease affects people of all ages, but usually starts in childhood. At least 1 in 10 children, and 1 in 20 adults, have asthma.  Asthma runs in some families, but many people with asthma have no other family members affected.

The typical symptoms are are wheezing, coughing, chest tightness, and shortness of breath. Symptoms can range from mild to severe. Treatment is usually with inhalers and this often works well to ease symptoms and prevent them recurring. A typical person with asthma may take a preventer inhaler every day (to prevent symptoms developing), and use a reliever inhaler as and when required (if symptoms flare up)

What causes asthma?

Asthma is caused by inflammation in the airways. It is not known why the inflammation occurs. The inflammation irritates the muscles around the airways, and causes them to squeeze (constrict). This causes narrowing of the airways. It is then more difficult for air to get in and out of the lungs. This leads to wheezing and breathlessness. The inflammation also causes the lining of the airways to make extra mucus which causes cough and further obstruction to airflow.

What can make asthma symptoms worse?

Asthma symptoms may flare up from time to time. There is often no obvious reason as to why symptoms flare up. However, some people find that symptoms are triggered, or made worse, in certain situations. It may be possible to avoid certain triggers, which may help to reduce symptoms. Things that may trigger asthma symptoms include the following:

  • Infections
  • Pollens and moulds
  • Exercise
  • Certain medicines.
  • Smoking and cigarette fumes
  • Allergies to animals
  • House dust mite

What is an asthma action plan?

An asthma action plan is a plan agreed by you with your doctor or nurse. The plan enables you to make adjustments to the dose of your inhalers, depending on your symptoms and/or peak flow readings. The plan is tailored to individual circumstances and is usually written down on a standard form, allowing you to refer to it at any given time. The plan is tailored to individual circumstances. The plan is written down, usually on a standard form, so you can refer to it at any time. Research studies suggest that people who complete personal asthma action plans find it easier to manage their asthma symptoms and that their plan helps them to go about their lives as normal.


You must know as much as you can about asthma, its triggers, and how to recognise and avoid them. Avoiding the triggers and with the right medication, an asthmatic can have a perfectly normal life.

Treatment of asthma includes prevention of symptoms and treatment of progressive asthma attacks. Your doctor may also prescribe two main types of medications: long- term control medications and quick - relief medications. Long-term medications that can be taken every day, help reduce airway inflammation and prevent the asthma symptoms. Quick relief medications provide rapid relief from symptoms during an asthma attack.

  • Queen's University Belfast
  • University of New South Wales
  • University of Syndey
  • Kings College London