What is Asthma?

Asthma is a common chronic inflammatory disease of the airways that affects roughly 10% of the population. It is the most widespread chronic health problem in Australia and is often associated with other allergic conditions like hay fever and eczema. It is characterized by symptoms that include wheezing, coughing, chest tightness, and shortness of breath. Asthma is thought to be caused by a combination of genetic and environmental factors. Although asthma cannot be cured, with good management people with asthma can lead normal, active lives.

QuickScript offers a wide range of treatments, if they have been previously prescribed for you, including oral medication and inhalers so you can manage your asthma effectively. Our service is quick, confidential and tailored to your lifestyle, so you can receive your usual asthma treatment within 24 hours of ordering.

What is an asthma attack?

Asthma causes the muscles in the airways to tighten and the lining of the airway becomes swollen and inflamed, producing sticky mucous. During an asthma attack, the airways narrow, reducing the flow of air in and out of the lungs. Most people with asthma only have symptoms when they inhale a ‘trigger’ such as smoke or pollen, exercise without the right preparation, or if they catch a cold or flu.  An asthma attack can become life threatening if not treated properly, even in someone whose asthma is usually mild or well controlled.

Always call an ambulance (000) in an asthma emergency

The signs of an emergency include when the person:

  • Finds it very difficult to breathe
  • Is unable to speak comfortably or if their lips are turning blue
  • Has symptoms that get worse very quickly
  • Is getting little or no relief from their reliever inhaler.

What can trigger an attack?

An asthma attack occurs when sufferers find it extremely difficult to breath due to an acute constriction of the airway. However most patients can experience the general symptoms of asthma without actually having an attack. Patients with asthma can have different triggers, some of the most common include:

  • Allergy triggers such as house dust mites, pollens, pets and moulds
  • Smoke
  • Viral/Bacterial infections – for example, flu and chest infections
  • Cold air or changes in the weather
  • Exercise
  • Work-related triggers – for example, wood dust, chemicals, metal salts
  • Some medicines and some types of foods

While it may not be possible to avoid every trigger, patients can help to reduce their likelihood of an attack by avoiding known triggers.

What are the treatments?

Asthma can be well controlled with the appropriate medication in almost all people. The main types of medication are:

  • Relievers that act quickly to relax the muscles around the airways – this is the medication used during an asthma attack
  • Preventers that slowly make the airways less sensitive to triggers and reduce inflammation inside the airways – they are taken daily to help keep you well
  • Symptom controllers that slowly help to relax the muscles around the airways – they are taken daily, together with a preventer
  • Combination medication that combines both a preventer and a symptom controller in the one inhaler.

For good asthma management, it is important that you:

  • See your doctor for regular check-ups and work together to manage your asthma.
  • Understand what triggers your asthma – this can be different for everyone.
  • Try to avoid or reduce your exposure to these triggers.
  • Use your medications as instructed by your doctor, even when you feel well.
  • Make sure you are using your inhaler (puffer) correctly.
  • Follow your written Asthma Action Plan.

Ask your doctor for a personal written Asthma Action Plan. As well as being a reminder of your usual treatment, an action plan helps you to recognise worsening asthma and tells you what to do in response.

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