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Asthma

Basics

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Definition

Asthma is an inflammatory disorder of the airways, which causes attacks of wheezing, shortness of breath, chest tightness, and coughing.

See also: Pediatric asthma

Symptoms

  • Cough with or without sputum (phlegm) production
  • Pulling in of the skin between the ribs when breathing (intercostal retractions)
  • Shortness of breath that gets worse with exercise or activity
  • Wheezing
    • Comes in episodes
    • May be worse at night or in early morning
    • May go away on its own
    • Gets better when using drugs that open the airways (bronchodilators)
    • Gets worse when breathing in cold air
    • Gets worse with exercise
    • Gets worse with heartburn (reflux)
    • Usually begins suddenly

Emergency symptoms:

Additional symptoms that may be associated with this disease:

  • Abnormal breathing pattern --breathing out takes more than twice as long as breathing in
  • Breathing temporarily stops
  • Chest pain
  • Nasal flaring
  • Tightness in the chest
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