Fact Of The Day: May Is Asthma Awareness Month

May is categorized as Asthma Awareness Month.

As an asthmatic from birth I can tell you that it is  a hard disease to deal.  I have found knowledge and management is key to living with it.

Make sure that you take these steps to figure out if you have it.

Personal and medical history. Your doctor will ask you questions to understand your symptoms and their causes. Bring notes to help jog your memory. Be ready to answer questions about your family history, the medicines you take and your lifestyle. This includes any current physical problems. Shortness of breath, wheezing, coughing and tightness in your chest may show asthma. This also includes all previous medical conditions. A history of allergies or eczema increases your chance of asthma. A family history of asthma, allergies or eczema increases your chance of having asthma, too. Tell your doctor about any home or work exposure to environmental factors that can worsen asthma. For example, these might include pet dander, pollen, dust mites and tobacco smoke. The doctor may also ask if you get chest symptoms when you get a head cold.

Physical examination. If your doctor thinks you have asthma, they will do a physical exam. They will look at your ears, eyes, nose, throat, skin, chest and lungs. This exam may include a lung function test to detect how well you exhale air from your lungs. You may also need an X-ray of your lungs or sinuses. A physical exam then allows your doctor to review your health.

Lung function tests. To confirm asthma, your doctor may have you take one or more breathing tests known as lung function tests. These tests measure your breathing. Lung function tests are often done before and after inhaling a medication known as a bronchodilator (bron-co-DIE-a-later), which opens your airways. If your lung function improves a lot with use of a bronchodilator, you probably have asthma. Your doctor may also prescribe a trial with asthma medication to see if it helps. Common lung function tests used to diagnose asthma include:

Spirometry. This is the recommended test to confirm asthma. During this test, you breathe into a mouthpiece that’s connected to a device. It is called a spirometer. The spirometer measures the amount of air you’re able to breathe in and out and its rate of flow. You will take a deep breath and then exhale forcefully.

Peak airflow. This test uses a peak flow meter. It’s a small, handheld device that you breathe into to measure the rate at which you can force air out of your lungs. During the test you breathe in as deeply as you can and then blow into the device as hard and fast as possible. If you’re diagnosed with asthma, you can use a peak flow meter at home to help track your condition.

Trigger tests. If your other results are normal, but you’ve been experiencing signs and symptoms of asthma, your doctor may use known asthma triggers to try and provoke a mild reaction. If you don’t have asthma, you won’t react. But if you do have asthma, you likely will develop asthma symptoms.

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