Chronic diseases


Asthma is a condition that affects approximately 12% of children and 8% of adults in Canada. It is characterised by chronic lung inflammation (redness, irritation and swelling).


Despite the similarities, it is very important to differentiate asthma from COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) which includes chronic bronchitis and emphysema.

Symptom of asthma

The most common symptoms are:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Tightness of the chest
  • Coughing
  • Wheezing

These symptoms can be mild, moderate and/or severe. Symptoms can vary from person to person and from episode to episode. They can also disappear for long periods of time and then reappear.

Some people experience symptoms only when exercising or when they are exposed to cold air, while others suffer during seasonal allergy periods (e.g., hay fever in the spring or fall).

If you have severe asthma symptoms, you must get medical attention immediately.

Symptoms of an asthma attack

The following severe symptoms indicate that you need immediate medical attention:

  • Excessive coughing
  • Excessive wheezing
  • Extreme chest tightness
  • Extreme difficulty breathing
  • Sweating
  • Pale or blue lips or fingernails
  • Anxiety, fear
  • No relief from medication

Asthma triggers 

There are several types of asthma triggers.

Allergic triggers

Asthma and allergies are related, since allergens can trigger an asthma attack. Some 75% of asthma patients also suffer from seasonal allergies such as hay fever. Allergies can cause the airways in the lungs to swell or the muscles around these airways to tighten. Since seasonal allergies can worsen your symptoms, it is important to treat them as a preventative measure.

These types of triggers include the following:

  • Dust mites
  • Animals and their dander
  • Mold
  • Pollen
  • Seasonal allergies (grass, trees)
  • Some viral infections (common cold)

Non-allergic triggers 

These triggers do not cause swelling and include the following:

  • Smoke (both from wood-burning fires and tobacco, including both first- and second-hand smoke)
  • Physical effort
  • Cold air
  • Fumes from chemicals or strong perfumes
  • Air pollution
  • Intense emotions

Reducing and managing asthma symptoms

While there is no cure for asthma, it can be effectively managed and controlled. You can become educated about your condition and apply basic techniques to deal with it.

These techniques include:

  • Avoiding or controlling your personal triggers
  • Taking the right medication at the right time in the right way
  • Using advanced spirometers and digital monitors; these devices tell you how well air is circulating in your airways.

The goal of your asthma management plan is to effectively control the condition so that you are symptom-free.

Effective management (symptom-free)

  • No symptoms (day or night)
  • Use of emergency medication (blue inhaler) less than four times a week
  • No absences from school or work due to asthma
  • Normal peak flow readings
  • Able to participate in normal activities, even strenuous physical activities, without symptoms

Good control (some symptoms)

  • Symptoms appear during normal activities and non-strenuous physical activities
  • Sleep may be disrupted by symptoms
  • Use of emergency medication (blue inhaler) more than four times a week
  • Absences from school or work due to asthma
  • Appearance of symptoms after a cold or bronchial infection

Pharmacy service

While the exact cause of asthma is not known, a family history of asthma, sensitivity and exposure to allergens and other triggers contribute to its onset. Obviously you cannot change your family history, but you can try to reduce your exposure to allergens and other types of triggers.

Asthma cannot be cured, but it can be effectively managed in most people. The more you know and understand about asthma, the better you will be able to control and manage your condition. Your Accès pharma affiliated-pharmacist can help.

To download the PDF brochure, click here. 

This information is not a substitute for professional medical advice and Accès pharma affiliated pharmacist-owners cannot be held responsible for this information. The information was true and accurate at the time of publication, but it is subject to change.

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