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Inside the Asthma Guide: A Doctor's Tour

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Symptoms & Types

Worried that you might have asthma symptoms? Surprisingly, sometimes a chronic cough is the only symptom of asthma, called cough-variant asthma. Learn more about asthma symptoms, such as wheezing, chest tightness, and shortness of breath, so you can talk openly with your doctor to see if you need asthma tests to confirm the diagnosis. Many people with allergies also have asthma or develop asthma in adulthood. If you have asthma and allergies, keeping your nose and sinuses clear by avoiding smoke, taking a non-sedating antihistamine every day during allergy season, and, in some cases, getting allergy shots may also help to control your asthma. Some people only get asthma symptoms during exercise, called exercise-induced asthma. Many people with asthma also suffer from sinusitis or from heartburn, common asthma triggers. No matter what you feel, if you learn all about asthma attacks and unusual asthma symptoms, you can try to recognize these signs early on and administer treatment when it's most effective.

Diagnosis & Tests

Before you take any asthma medication, you want to be certain that the diagnosis of asthma is correct. If you haven't had one already, an asthma test can help confirm that you have asthma. You may also want to confirm that the asthma treatments prescribed are actually making a measurable difference. That's why pulmonary function tests (lung function) are so important—so if you are diagnosed with asthma, you can take the proper steps to self-manage your asthma every day.

Treatment & Self-Care

If you're unsure about using the asthma treatments your doctor prescribed, you should learn more about them – how they work, how to tell if they are effective, what side-effects you may experience, and what other treatments are available. Although some asthma medications are pills, the mainstay medications are "asthma puffers" or asthma inhalers – either anti-inflammatory drugs or bronchodilators (airway openers). Many people don't use their inhalers correctly, so they don't get optimal relief from chest tightness or coughing. Make sure you're using your asthma inhalers correctly. And know when to turn to an asthma nebulizer (breathing machine) to treat an asthma attack.

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