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Your Healthcare Team

Your Doctor & Asthma Educator | Ask the ASC Expert | Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3

Got a question for an ASC expert? Just submit it using the link below. You'll receive a response by e-mail, usually within three business days.

Questions that are of interest to a large number of Canadians with asthma may be added to our asthma FAQs. See our privacy statement for more information.

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General Questions About Asthma

What is asthma?
Asthma is a chronic (long-term) inflammation of the lining of the airways of the lungs, which makes these airways contract easily. As a result, a person with asthma can experience difficulty breathing and often requires long-term treatment to control this inflammation.

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Can asthma be cured?
No, not yet. However, it can be controlled, by using controller medication and by avoiding your allergic and non-allergic triggers.

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Why do more people have asthma now than in the past?
It seems there are more cases of asthma today because it is more correctly diagnosed than it was in the past.

That said, the overall incidence of asthma has been increasing. While researchers do not know exactly why, they do have several theories.

One theory suggests that more people develop asthma today because we spend more time indoors than people used to. Indoor air can contain a number of asthma triggers, such as smoke, dust mites and pet allergens. Additionally, in response to the oil crisis of the 1970s, modern homes are more tightly sealed than older homes. This means that indoor air doesn't circulate with outdoor air the way it did in older, better-ventilated homes. As a result, people inside are exposed to greater amounts of indoor air and the triggers it may contain.

Other theories attempting to explain why asthma is on the rise include the suggestion that outdoor air pollution has a significant effect on asthma. There is also the possibility that because children today experience fewer infections, they are somehow more susceptible to developing asthma.

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Why is my asthma worse at night?
There are several factors that may contribute to your experiencing more asthma symptoms at night:

  • The circadian rhythm causes certain natural hormones (similar to those in certain asthma medications) to be at lower levels at night. These lower hormone levels reduce the diameter of the airways slightly and may make it more likely that you experience asthma symptoms at night.
  • You could be inhaling dust mite allergens from your pillows, blankets and mattress while you sleep.
  • When you lie down, the distribution of gravity on your chest can put extra pressure on your lungs.

If you experience nighttime symptoms, it means your asthma is not being properly controlled. Discuss these nighttime symptoms with your doctor. You may also want to bring a copy of the How Do You Feel Today? quiz to your next doctor's appointment. The quiz can help you find out how well you're managing your asthma symptoms.

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Why do I experience asthma symptoms when I laugh or cry?
If laughing or crying brings on symptoms, your asthma is not being properly controlled. Talk to your doctor or an asthma educator about ways to better control your asthma.

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A friend suggested I move to a different part of the country. Should I?
Asthma occurs everywhere, so moving generally will not help. Usually your house, not your geographic area, is the most important consideration for people with asthma. The home can contain triggers like old carpets full of per allergens and dust mites and mould. But, if there is one particular asthma trigger that is a big problem in your area, moving somewhere where it is low or absent may help.

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Are there different types of asthma?
All asthma is characterized by long-term inflammation, an increase in mucous, and "twitchy" airways. However, asthma has been called by different names according to when and how it develops. These names include:

  • Bronchial asthma
  • Childhood asthma
  • Adult-onset asthma
  • Occupational asthma
  • Allergic asthma
  • Non-allergic asthma
  • Mild asthma
  • Moderate asthma
  • Severe asthma
  • Intermittent asthma
  • Persistent asthma
  • Silent asthma
  • Fragile asthma
  • Coughing asthma
  • Viral-induced asthma

No matter what kind of name it's given, asthma is almost always managed by taking appropriate medications as directed and avoiding environmental triggers.

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Is there any way to prevent asthma from occurring in the first place?
Possibly. People with a family history of certain disorders (including asthma, allergies, eczema, food allergies and anaphylaxis) and who are planning to have children should reduce asthma triggers in the home both before and after their children are born. Research suggests that exposure to certain indoor triggers - like pet allergens (particularly cats), smoke or dust mites - in the first few years of life may increase the likelihood of asthma developing.

What's more, children with another allergic disorder may be more likely to develop asthma as well. In cases like these, exposure to common asthma triggers should be minimized as much as possible. Under no circumstances should a child (or anyone else for that matter) be exposed to secondhand smoke. Known causes of occupational asthma should also be avoided.

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Do children outgrow asthma?
In most cases, asthma is a life-long condition. Occasionally, people with asthma will enjoy long periods in which they do not experience symptoms. Often, children who have asthma find that their symptoms disappear during adolescence but return when they reach adulthood.

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DISCLAIMER: Content on this website is for information purposes only andnot a substitute for a qualified medical professional.
For specific information treatment and management your asthma and/or potential side effects of medications and
treatment, please consult your physician.