Asthma - An Introduction


It is not an uncommon experience for asthmatics to wake up in the middle of the night with severe breathlessness. 

This is because asthma affects the airways, the tubes that carry air in and out of your lungs. Asthma causes the inside lining of the airways to become swollen or inflamed, with excessive amounts of mucus being produced. The constricted airways do not allow your lungs to get sufficient air leading to an asthmatic attack.

An asthmatic attack is often in response to one or more triggers. The most common asthma triggers are:

  • Allergens from nature such as pollen, household dust mite and cockroach, mold spores and domestic pets
  • Air pollution
  • Smoking and ‘passive’ smoking
  • Respiratory infections, including common cold
  • Physical exertion, including exercise
  • Cold weather
  • Certain medications
  • Emotional stress

A few or all of the following can be the symptoms for patients experiencing an asthmatic attack:

  • Wheezing
  • Difficulty in breathing
  • Tightness in the chest
  • Frequent cough
  • Gasping for breath in severe cases

Asthma is treated with bronchodilators that are quick-relief medicines. Chronic asthmatics use long-term control medicines called ‘preventer’ medications.
Bronchodilators are agents that relax bronchial muscles, soothe their irritability, and relieve the bronchoconstriction that is characteristic of asthma. This kind of medication works instantly, and relieves asthmatic conditions during an attack.

‘Preventer’ medicines are anti-inflammatory agents that need to be taken on a regular basis to suppress the inflammation of your airways. They are more useful in providing long-term asthma control.

Chronic asthmatics can take preventive measures to reduce incidences of asthmatic attacks. They need to identify their triggers and take steps to stay away from these triggers.



What you can do

Animal dander

Stay away from pets.

Dust and dust mites

Keep your mattress and bed covered with a bed cover during daytime.
Wash your pillows, bed sheets and blankets weekly in hot water.
Clean car and sofa upholstery.
Avoid use of carpets.

Allergens – mold

Keep bathrooms and kitchens clean and well ventilated.

Allergens – pollen

Avoid the outdoors during the early mornings.
Avoid exposure to flowers.
Exercise indoors.


Avoid proximity with smokers.

Irritants – aerosols and perfumes

Avoid perfumes and deodorant sprays.

Exercise or physical exertion

Use bronchodilators after duly consulting your doctor and take to exercising gently before building up gradually.

Cold weather

Avoid the outdoors during cold weather.
Avoid consuming frozen snacks such as ice creams, and chilled beverages.