When you think of asthma, what comes to mind? A child using an inhaler? What you may not know is that asthma—a disease that makes it difficult to breathe—can sometimes make its first appearance in adulthood.
“Asthma is a chronic lung disease that makes it harder to move air into and out of your lungs,” Cheryl Thome, a registered nurse and pediatric asthma coordinator at Banner Children's at Desert in Mesa, AZ, said. “While asthma often first shows up in children, it can also develop later in life in adults."
Uncovering Signs of Asthma in Adults
- Irritating, persistent cough, particularly at night
- Coughing or wheezing after physical activity
- Coughing, wheezing or chest tightness after allergen exposure
- Wheezing sounds during normal breathing
- Breathing problems related to a specific seasonA cold lasting more than 10 days
- Experiencing symptom relief when a quick relief medication, such as Albuterol, is used
Asthma symptoms can sometimes be confused with allergy symptoms, according to Thome. So, what is the difference between asthma and allergies? “Allergies happen when the body has a hypersensitive reaction to a foreign substance, and symptoms can include a stuffy, runny or itchy nose or itchy throat – symptoms that are different from asthma,” Thome said.
However, when a person with asthma comes into contact with things they are allergic to, it can affect their breathing more than it would someone who doesn’t have asthma—even causing an asthma attack. “If an asthmatic comes into contact with certain allergens they are sensitive to, like dust mites, furry animals, mold or pollen, it can trigger an asthma attack,” Thome said.
Diagnosing Adult Asthma
If you think you may have asthma, your first step is to meet with your doctor. Your physician will do a physical exam, assess your symptoms, take your medical history and possibly order a pulmonary function test. Although there is no cure for asthma, the good news is that asthma symptoms can be managed through medication. Schedule your appointment and get started.