Asthma is a chronic illness that makes it difficult to breathe. When you experience an asthma episode, your airways become swollen and red, the muscles tighten around your airway and mucus clogs your airway. Symptoms of asthma can include wheezing, coughing, whistling sounds while breathing and shortness of breath.

There are many triggers that can cause an asthma episode. These include:

  • Irritants — Strong smells such as perfumes, kerosene, cleaning supplies, wood smoke and cigarette smoke.
  • Weather Changes — Changes in the weather from hot to cold or dry to moist.
  • Allergies — Allergies to foods, mold, animal dander, cockroaches, dust mites or pollens.
  • Exercise — Exercise and outdoor play.
  • Stress — Emotions such as crying and laughing as well as stress.

There are warning signs to look for that may indicate a developing asthma episode. Here are some of these early warning signs:

  • Itchy or watery eyes
  • Lethargy
  • Grumpiness
  • Headache
  • Coughing
  • Weakness or exhaustion
  • Dark circles under the eyes
  • Stuffy or runny nose
  • Out of breath
  • Sneezing
  • Coughing during the day or night

There are two types of medications typically used in asthma treatment. These are Controllers and Relievers. Usually both of these are used to successfully treat and manage asthma.

  • Controllers — These keep asthma under control by preventing asthmatic symptoms. These are typically taken every day. Some examples of these are Advair, Singulair, Intal, Pulmicort and Flovent.
  • Relievers — These are used to relieve asthma symptoms quickly. These are only used when early warning signs or asthma symptoms are being experienced. Some examples are Albuterol, Proventil, Ventolin and Xopenex.

If you have asthma, take your controller medicine daily or as directed by your physician. Avoid triggers and take reliever medicine as soon as you experience early warning signs or asthma episode symptoms.

Call your doctor if your reliever medicine stops working or if your symptoms are worse after taking the reliever. It is also important to call your doctor if your reliever medicine is needed every four hours.

If you cannot complete a sentence without gasping for air, your fingers are blue or gray or you feel confused, call 911 immediately.

Remember to bring your medicine and inhalers with you at all times, especially when traveling. Talk to your doctor about a flu shot each fall and see your doctor at least twice a year to check on your asthma.

Poor Indoor Air Quality has become a growing health concern and pollutants in the home often aggravate asthma symptoms and attacks.

According to the American Lung Association, the most common pollutants are radon, combustion products, biological and microbial (molds, pet dander, pollen), volatile organic compounds, lead dust and asbestos. These elements widely found within our homes and workplaces are adversely affecting our respiratory health. Learning how to control your home's environment to reduce allergen levels is crucial for managing allergies and asthma.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recommends removing or controlling the source of allergens, ventilating your home with clean outdoor air and using an air purifier for additional help controlling the levels of allergens, particles and even gas pollutants in the home.

Guardian Technologies™ GermGuardian® 3-in-1 True HEPA Air Cleaning System can be used to further control triggers. The HEPA filter captures 99.97% of airborne allergens (down to .3 microns in size) the system helps reduce smoke particles and odors and it uses UV-C technology to kill common germs and bacteria.