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learn to control symptoms and avoid flare-ups

Asthma is a pathology characterized by sporadic shortness of breath. Learn how to control symptoms and prevent flare-ups.

THE asthma It is a disease that affects the airways, causing narrowing of the bronchi and increased production of mucus. Hence, it normally creates difficulty breathing and wheezing. Is chronic diseasewithout cure, but whose symptoms can be controlled and crises avoided.

Asthma is associated with an exaggerated response of the immune system to exposure to irritants such as bacteria, viruses, dust, pollution or pollens. Learn more about this disease.

Asthma: What the Experts Say

In Portugal, there are about 600,000 asthmatic patients, being responsible for causing attacks in 5% of the pediatric population and 11% of adults, according to data from the Portuguese Society of Pneumology.

Despite being a chronic disease, with no cure, “with proper treatment, asthma can be controlled and can allow the patient to have a good quality of life and without restrictions”, stresses Ana Mendes, from the Portuguese Society of Allergology and Clinical Immunology (SPAIC).

Despite this, “asthma can also kill”, warns the specialist, who also reinforces that: “Portugal has an asthma mortality rate identical to that of countries with better health indicators, but, in recent years, there has been an increase , albeit slight, but worrying, in the number of cases. The majority of deaths from asthma are preventable and can translate into difficulty in perceiving the severity and the possibility of controlling the disease”.

Asthma is a pathology of the respiratory system difficult to define, although its diagnosis is usually very easy. It is characterized by episodes of sporadic shortness of breath, which are called dyspnoea. These shortness of breath episodes are reversible, either spontaneously or through the action of drugs.

Most patients have asthma since childhood. Many improve substantially during adolescence. However, this does not mean that they cannot have an episode of asthma for the rest of their lives.

Asthma: symptoms and treatment

Asthma is associated with some risk factors, such as having a family history of the disease; eczema; food allergies; environmental allergies; or allergic rhinitis. There are also agents that can more frequently trigger asthma attacks, such as: house dust mites; pollens; animal hair; tobacco smoke; pollution; drugs; cold air; viral infections; and chemical irritants.

The symptoms associated with asthma are not permanent, appearing only in times of crisis. Some of these symptoms are:

  • shortness of breath (dyspnoea);
  • dry cough (at night or at dawn);
  • wheezing/wheezing;
  • chest tightness (chest tightness);
  • tiredness (due to coughing or for no apparent reason).


To diagnose asthma, it is necessary to carry out some analyzes and tests, such as: blood tests; respiratory functional tests (spirometry with bronchodilation test); assessment tests for bronchial hyperreactivity; chest X-ray; skin tests; and assessment of airway inflammation.

Non-pharmacological measures

Asthma control can also be achieved through the adoption of non-pharmacological measures. See which ones.

  • Quit smoking: tobacco increases the inflammation of the airways, as it is an irritant for them.
  • Fight overweight.
  • Avoid contact with the dust by cleaning it with a damp cloth and using a vacuum cleaner.
  • Do not go to places with smoke.
  • Do breathing exercises like blowing out candles or blowing soap bubbles.
  • Air the house frequently.
  • Do not wear clothes with a lot of fur or that have been stored for a long time.
  • Don’t mess with old things like books or papers.
  • Humidify the air.
  • Avoid moldy environments.
  • Avoid irritating agents: strong smells (paint, varnish), car exhaust, perfumes, etc.
Children with COVID-19 and rare symptoms are a concern

Pharmacological treatments

To treat the symptoms of asthma, drugs such as bronchodilators are used. Its function is to dilate the bronchi so that the air has more space to pass and thus increase the volume of air in the body. There are two groups of inhaled bronchodilators: β2 agonists and anticholinergics.

To treat inflammation of the respiratory mucosa, are used steroids or antileukotrienes. More recently, combinations of drugs composed of corticoids and long-acting bronchodilators have been used.

Therefore, a patient with asthma only takes medication on SOS, when he feels an attack, usually resorting to a bronchodilator to inhale. As a long-term treatment, you can use anti-leukotrienes or corticoids, depending on the degree and how well the disease is controlled.

To avoid asthma attacks, you can still take other precautions, such as taking vaccines for allergy/immunotherapy; prevent other respiratory infections; and reduce exposure to allergens such as dust mites, tobacco, smoke and pollution.

Woman with pollen allergy

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Pollen allergy: the nuisance that can be mitigated

Asthma and COVID-19

This disease does not appear to be a risk factor for contracting the new coronavirus infection, as warned by the Portuguese Society of Allergology and Clinical Immunology (SPAIC), but the entity warns that asthma with uncontrolled symptoms can contribute to a more severe picture of COVID-19.

Therefore, the body recommends that all people with asthma and allergic rhinitis “maintain good adherence to daily preventive treatment”, in addition to the recommended hygiene and physical distancing measures. Therefore, the medication must be taken in the doses and at the time recommended by the assistant allergist, in order to prevent possible asthmatic crises, reinforces the entity.

In the event of an asthmatic crisis, SPAIC recommends that you reinforce “your medication according to the plan that your allergist has drawn up, trying not to resort to hospital emergency services, unless it is strictly necessary”.

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