Category: Diagnosing Asthma

Diagnosing asthma is the first step towards effective treatment. Studies show that up to half of all asthmatics do not receive proper treatment because they don’t recognise the signs, and so they suffer needlessly.
However, there are also cases where people have been misdiagnosed with asthma and receive unnecessary treatment. This is particularly common in children who have a greater tendency to wheeze because their airways are small and their immune response involves mucus as a major factor. Two thirds of infants under one year old who wheeze with respiratory infections do not develop asthma.

Dr Anne Chang of the Royal Children’s Hospital in Melbourne, Australia says that parents should not be in too much of a hurry to ask for asthma treatment. She further recommends that if there is no positive response after taking asthma medication for one week then the answer is not to increase the dosage but to look for other problems.

So How Do I Know I Have Asthma?
Many people (and you or a family member could be one of them) can have asthma without even realising it. This makes you an undiagnosed asthmatic. If you cough persistently, wheeze or suffer shortness of breath, you should see a doctor. Even if these symptoms occur occasionally, they shouldn’t be ignored. You might cough only at night or with exercise; wheezing might only occur when doing housework or gardening; and shortness of breath may only be experienced at work. Yet, all these symptoms can indicate asthma.

These common asthma symptoms are present only some of the time – wheezing, chest tightness, coughing, excessive mucus, tiredness.

This is because asthma is episodic – i.e. you don’t always have symptoms

Asthma has a tendency (though not always) to run in families, so look for other family members with asthma. There is often a link between asthma and a certain activity, time of the year or food item

Asthma is frequently found in people who also suffer from eczema, rhinitis or hay fever

Asthmatics have extra-sensitive (“twitchy”) airways which over-react to things that don’t usually affect other people

Most asthmatics have blocked or running noses much of the time and certainly when they have other asthma symptoms

There is a positive response to asthma medication

Many asthmatics have had a long history of chest infections

Allergic asthma usually appears between the ages of five and fifteen

Asthma which appears in adults is usually associated with a life-style change – for example, a new job, change in the area you live or even a change of house in the same area

Your breathing patterns are different to other people you know of a similar age and fitness – e.g. you breathe faster, through the mouth or use your upper chest more often

Asthma can be a difficult disease to diagnose, as it can mimic other respiratory conditions such as chronic bronchitis and emphysema. It is important to have your doctor give a diagnosis.
Before you go to the doctor write down when you get your symptoms:
are they at night or in the morning?
at work or at home?
when exercising?
winter or summer?
Also take note of what exactly happens to you, do you wheeze, cough, sneeze or feel heavy chested? Read on, to take a test to see if it’s asthma.