Asthma is a chronic inflammatory condition of the airways. It can affect any age group, and the symptoms may differ from person to person. Some people may experience mild symptoms, while others experience moderate to severe.
While genetics could be a reason for asthma in some people, occupation and other environmental factors can also be a reason for asthma in others.
Are all wheezes due to asthma?
Wheezing is a high-pitch whistling sound heard when the airways are partially blocked. It is a common symptom in asthma but can also be a symptom of other conditions. People with allergies, common colds, nasal blockage, bronchitis, pneumonia, heart failure, and a few more conditions may have wheezing.
Hence, all wheezes are not asthma, and not all asthma has wheezing.
Type of cough in asthma?
Typically people with asthma have a dry cough.
Cough is a body's response (protective) to get rid of the irritants, allergens and other foreign particles which are either inhaled or ingested. When the body recognizes a foreign, harmful substance entering the body by nose or mouth, it forces the airways to constrict and swell so as to prevent the entry of foreign particles into the lungs. Due to the narrowing of the airways, enough air cannot reach the lungs, which may lead to asthma-like symptoms.
But some people with asthma may have a cough with phlegm (wet cough or productive cough). This may be potentially related to a greater decline in pulmonary function.
Why do asthma symptoms worsen at night?
When we sleep, our throat, tongue, and airways relax, which leads to narrowed airways. Generally, people may not notice any difference in breathing, but some people with asthma may show worsening of their symptoms such as coughing, wheezing, breathlessness and chest tightness. This happens because in asthma the airways are already narrowed, and sleeping may increase this narrowing.
Other reasons for nighttime worsening of asthma symptoms:
- Drainage from the nose and sinuses may trigger the symptoms of asthma at night.
- GERD (Gastro-Esophageal Reflux Disease): It is a digestive disorder in which the gastric acid content flows back to the throat, causing cough, wheezing and pneumonia. GERD is closely associated with asthma and vice-versa. GERD is known to trigger the symptoms of asthma.
- Cold and allergies: Generally, the cold weather at night may trigger asthma symptoms. People with seasonal or allergic asthma may have worsened nighttime symptoms due to increased airway narrowing.
- Respiratory infections like sinusitis.
Worsening of asthma symptoms at night is generally seen in people who do not manage their condition properly.
Can exercise cause asthma?
Some people may show asthma-like symptoms such as wheezing, breathlessness and chest pain only when they perform strenuous exercises. This is known as exercise-induced bronchospasm or bronchoconstriction (EIB). It can happen to people who are not diagnosed with asthma as well.
Can exercise worsen my asthma?
Some people may show asthma-like symptoms such as wheezing, breathlessness and chest pain only when they perform strenuous exercises. This is known as exercise-induced bronchospasm or bronchoconstriction (EIB). It can happen to people who are not diagnosed with asthma as well. The majority of people with asthma may experience EIB.
Strenuous exercise or physical activity may cause the airways to narrow, which leads to asthma-like symptoms.
However, mild exercise may not worsen asthma. In fact, it may help to improve lung function.
Reason for a sudden worsening of asthma?
There are many factors that can trigger asthma. When the body is exposed to such triggering factors, it may cause a sudden worsening of the symptoms.
There could be another mechanism by which the body may show sudden worsening of the symptoms. Initially, when the body is exposed to allergens, it may produce pro-inflammatory cells that may be responsible for initial symptoms of asthma but after a few hours, the body may also produce other inflammatory mediators, which may cause a sudden worsening of asthma symptoms.
What does an asthma attack feel like?
A person may feel anxious; have severe breathlessness, cough, and chest tightness or burning sensation in the chest during an asthma attack. The person may find it difficult to even say a few words with each breath.
What is the colour of the phlegm or mucus in asthma?
Generally, people with asthma have a dry cough, but some people may also have a cough with mucus. Thick white mucus is produced in asthma which could be indicative of infection and inflammation in the airways. The white colour phlegm may represent the presence of white blood cells in the airways (these cells are released during an infection to fight the infection-causing microbes)