What is asthma?

The actual cause and pathology behind asthma is not well-understood, but it is thought that a trigger causes airway inflammation, airway narrowing and mucous secretions. A person who has asthma will experience recurrent flare-ups (attacks) that are reversible. These flare-ups are usually triggered by exposure to some sort of stimuli or allergen, such as dust, dog or cat hair, pollen, mould, chemicals, tobacco smoke, air pollution, exercise in the cold and some types of food or drink. The symptoms of a flare-up are usually reversed by taking reliever medication, a blue or grey ‘puffer’).


What are the symptoms?

During an asthma attack, common symptoms are wheezing, breathlessness, coughing and chest tightness.  Asthma Australia recommends that during an asthma attack, it is important to stop and rest, sit upright in a chair, and take four puffs of your asthma medication, with a spacer if you have one.


How can physiotherapy help?

There is growing evidence for exercise training and breathing techniques in the management of asthma. Exercise training, such as running, cycling, swimming, walking, gymnastics and weight training, can improve fitness levels and quality of life. Breathing techniques may also help reduce symptoms and improve quality of life. Both exercise training and breathing techniques are well-tolerated and safe for people with asthma when done correctly.

Managing your asthma at home is important. Discuss with your GP or physiotherapist about having an asthma action plan. This involves having a plan for what medication to take when you are stable, how to detect if your asthma is getting worse, and what medications to take if your asthma is getting worse. An important part of your management at home is measuring your ‘peak flow’ every morning. This measures how fast you can breathe air out of your lungs and helps you keep track of your asthma severity over time. Maintaining a physically active lifestyle is also important to keep you fit and healthy



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