What is Asthma?

Asthma is a condition that affects the airways – the small tubes that carry air in and out of the lungs. The airways become over-sensitive, which means that they react to things that would normally not cause a problem, such as cold air or dust. This reaction means that muscles around the wall of the airway tighten up, making it narrow and difficult for the air to flow in and out.

What causes Asthma?

We still don’t know exactly what causes asthma, but what we do know is that:

  • Anyone can develop asthma. It is particularly common in Ireland, where over 470,000 adults and children have the condition.
  • It can start at any time of life, although it most often begins in childhood.
  • Sometimes it affects several family members e.g. if you have parents or brothers and sisters with asthma or allergies such as eczema or hay fever, you are more likely to have it yourself.
  • Conditions like hay-fever, eczema, or hives, which are usually the result of allergy, may occur along with asthma.
  • Adult onset asthma may develop after a respiratory tract infection.
  • Many aspects of modern lifestyles such as changes in housing, diet and a more sterile home environment may have contributed to the rise in asthma over  the last few decades.

Asthma Symptoms


How asthma is treated

 While there is no cure for asthma, there are a number of treatments that can help control the condition.

Treatment is based on two important goals, which are:

  • relieving symptoms
  • preventing future symptoms and attacks

For most people, this will involve the occasional – or, more commonly, daily – use of medications, usually taken using an inhaler. However, identifying and avoiding possible triggers is also important.

You should have a personal asthma action plan agreed with your doctor or nurse that includes information about the medicines you need to take, how to recognise when your symptoms are getting worse, and what steps to take when they do so.

If you suspect that you or your child are suffering from asthma your G.P. will be able to give you a diagnosis based on:
  • Whether there’s a family history of asthma;
  • The pattern of the symptoms;
  • A physical chest examination;
  • Peak flow/lung function test (child must be over 5 years old);
  • A trial of asthma treatment.


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For more information… pop into Brookes Pharmacy, Call us on 023-8841136, visit the Asthma Society of Ireland or contact your local GP.