Does My Shortness of Breath Mean That I Have Asthma?

It’s crucial to visit a health care provider if you suspect that you or your child have asthma. This chronic lung condition affects more than 25 million people in the United States. 

Classic asthma symptoms include wheezing, coughing, and shortness of breath. Shortness of breath can have various causes involving either the lungs or the heart, and it can present an even scarier situation because it’s one symptom of the COVID-19 pandemic.

At Riviera Allergy Medical Center, allergy specialist Dr. Ulrike Ziegner has extensive experience diagnosing and treating a broad range of allergic and immunologic conditions. Here we discuss the signs and symptoms of asthma. 

Remember, the only way to know for sure whether you have asthma is to have a comprehensive evaluation by a trained professional.

What causes asthma?

Asthma is a chronic disease that affects the airways of the lungs. Under normal circumstances the airways relax so that air flows freely. During an asthma attack, however, the airways become inflamed, tighten and narrow, making it difficult to breathe.

Increased mucus production, caused by the inflammation, makes matters worse. This results in wheezing and coughing, and causes you to struggle to breathe. It can be very difficult for a layperson to distinguish asthma-induced shortness of breath from breathlessness brought on by something else.

What are common asthma triggers?

Discovering and limiting asthma triggers is part of successfully managing your condition. There are many kinds of asthma triggers, and they vary from person to person. Dr. Ziegner helps you to identify your triggers. The most common are:

Some people with asthma may have just one or two triggers, while others can have several. For people with unavoidable triggers such as trees or grass, your provider goes through steps to prevent symptoms from allergic reactions. This plays a key role in managing your asthma.

Early asthma warning signs

Learning to recognize early warning signs of an impending asthma attack can help you better manage your asthma. Changes often occur before or at the beginning of an asthma attack. These signs can be subtle, so it’s important to recognize them. Such signs include:

Using a peak flow meter is an important tool in managing your asthma. This device measures how well air flows through your lungs, and it detects narrowing even before an asthma attack occurs. A peak flow meter can detect these changes hours and sometimes days before an asthma attack.

Your provider may have you measure your peak flow once a day to find your highest average number over a two- or three-week period. The goal is to create an action plan based on the highest peak flow number.

Ultimately, you want to stay within 80-100% of your highest peak flow number, which is your “green zone”. Your provider outlines what to do when your peak flow number dips to the “yellow zone” (50-80%) or below 50% (“red zone”). 

For example, your action plan may involve taking quick-relief medicine, such as a rescue inhaler, when you enter the “yellow zone” to see if your levels return to the “green zone”. 

Rest assured that if you receive an asthma diagnosis, the condition is very treatable. With the right asthma management, you can lead a normal life. 

If you’re struggling with symptoms of shortness of breath, we can help. Call our Redondo Beach, California, office at 310-504-3242 to book an appointment with Dr. Ziegner. You can also send a message to Dr. Ziegner and the team here on our website.

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