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Asthma FAQs

Take the Asthma Quiz First! Before reading this FAQ, challenge yourself and Test your Knowledge!

Q:Asthma is a chronic respiratory disease. True or False?

A:True.

Asthma is a common, chronic respiratory disease that causes difficulty breathing. Both inflammation and narrowing of the airways make it hard to breathe. About 26 million adults and children in the U.S. suffer from this common condition.

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Q:There is no cure for asthma. True or False?

A:True.

There is no cure for asthma, but it can be effectively managed and controlled.
- Avoid asthma triggers
- Use effective asthma control medications including quick-relief medicines for immediate relief, and long-term control medicines. Allergy shots (immunotherapy) may also help
- See an allergist (asthma specialist) for a treatment program
Effective control of asthma will help patients prevent symptoms, reduce the need for quick-relief medicines, maintain good lung function, help you keep your normal activity levels, and prevent asthma attacks.

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Q:How long does an asthma attack last?

A:An asthma attack can last from several hours to days if not treated.

Mild flare-ups may only last a few minutes, while severe attacks can last for days. Quick-relief medications (also called rescue or fast-acting medicines) are bronchodilators that work to expand the airways of the lungs (the bronchi), which improves your breathing. Get medical treatment immediately if shortness of breath does not improve or worsens.

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Q:An asthma attack occurs when asthma symptoms become worse than usual. True or False?

A:True.

An asthma attack occurs when asthma symptoms worsen acutely, and patients feel as if they cannot breathe. Asthma is inflammation and narrowing of the airways (bronchi), and during an attack the muscles around the bronchial tubes constrict and make it very difficult to breathe. Other symptoms may include wheezing or a rattling sound in the chest. Severe asthma attacks (status asthmaticus) are considered a medical emergency and a delay in care may result in cardiac arrest, respiratory failure, or death.

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Q:What causes an asthma attack?

A:Asthma attacks occur when a person is exposed to “triggers,” or conditions that can set off an attack.

Common asthma triggers include:

cAllergens (trees, pollen, dust, animal dander, cockroaches, etc.)
- Air irritants (smoke, chemical fumes, strong odors)
- Some illnesses (such as the flu, sinus infection, or upper respiratory tract infection)
- Strenuous exercise
- Extreme weather conditions
- Strong emotions that may change your normal breathing patterns
Before an asthma attack some common warning signs include an increased need for quick-relief medications (rescue medications), worsening cough, shortness of breath, and lower exercise.

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Q:What is respiratory failure?

A:Respiratory failure occurs when insufficient oxygen passes from the lungs into the bloodstream, or when the lungs can no longer remove carbon dioxide (a waste product) from the blood.

A severe asthma attack (called status asthmaticus) that does not respond to fast-acting medications can lead to respiratory failure.

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Q:Asthma can be cured, so it is not serious and nobody dies from it. True or False?

A:False. There is no cure for asthma, but the disease can be controlled in most patients with good medical care. The condition should be taken seriously, since uncontrolled asthma may result in emergency hospitalization and possible death.

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