Asthma Library

What’s Asthma?

Who Gets Asthma?

Prevention and Care

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A Peek at the Pump
A Peek at the Pump

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Online learning resources for diabetes, asthma, hypertension, and nutrition.
Diabetes 101: Learn more about diabetes, managing your blood sugar levels, and your diet.
Diabetes 201: Learn more about diabetes, managing your blood sugars, and your diet.
Asthma 101: Learn more about asthma and dealing with shortness of breath.
Hypertension 101: Learn more about hypertension and managing your blood pressure.
Nutrition 101: Learn more about improving your nutrition and diet

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Asthma Library: Prevention and Care

Signs of an Asthma Attack

Asthma episodes rarely occur without warning signs and most people with asthma show warning signs hours before any symptoms appear. Learning to spot the early warning signs of an asthma attack is a key part of managing the disease.

Common warning signs include:

  • A drop in a peak flow reading on a device called a peak flow meter which, used twice daily, can give an accurate measurement of airway blockage [insert link to Peak Flow Meter info below]
  • A chronic cough, especially at night
  • Rapid breathing
  • Becoming short of breath more easily than usual
  • Chest tightness
  • Itchy, watery eyes
  • Itchy, scratchy or sore throat
  • Sneezing, runny nose or head congestion and headache

By learning to pay attention to the signs of an oncoming attack, you can control a crisis yourself or contact your doctor ahead of time for consultation.

When you should see a doctor

In the event that an attack has become unmanageable, it is important to recognize the signs of an emergency and seek emergency medical help. Emergency symptoms include:

  • Severe breathlessness and difficulty breathing
  • Intense coughing
  • Cyanosis (bluish nailbeds and lips)
  • Racing pulse<
  • Sweating, fatigue, lethargy and difficulty speaking


According to the Guidelines for the Diagnosis and Management of Asthma report released from the National Asthma Education Program, there are five goals for the effective management of asthma:

  1. Maintain (near) optimal pulmonary function rates;
  2. Maintain normal activity levels, including exercise;
  3. Prevent chronic and troublesome symptoms (e.g., coughing or breathlessness in the night, in the early morning, or after exertion);
  4. Prevent recurrent asthma flare-ups;
  5. Avoid adverse effects from asthma medications.

The first step in treating asthma is to reduce the inflammation of the airways in order to restore free breathing. This can be done through preventive medications taken daily through an inhaler [insert link to inhaler info below] or with what are often called rescue medications that open the airways in the event of an acute attack.

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