Asthma Basics: What to Know

If you have asthma, you need to know how to take care of your condition. Here is some information and tips that may help:

What is asthma?

Asthma is a chronic lung disease that affects children and adults. Certain triggers — often an irritant or allergen — affect the airways leading to the lungs. In response, the lining of the airways swells and excess mucus can build up. This chain of events can severely restrict airflow.

What are the symptoms?

If you have asthma, you may have one or more of these symptoms:

  • Coughing, which may be worse at night or early in the morning
  • Wheezing
  • Shortness of breath
  • Feeling a tightness in the chest

Who’s most at risk?

Anyone can develop asthma. But it tends to run in families. People who have allergies are also at increased risk of having it.

What tends to bring on asthma symptoms?

Some of the most common triggers are:

  • Allergens, such as dust mites, cockroaches, pet dander, mold and pollen
  • Weather — dry wind, cold air or sudden changes, for example
  • Physical activity that makes you breathe harder — especially in cold air
  • Airborne irritants such as chemical fumes, air pollution, and tobacco or wood smoke
  • Respiratory illnesses, such as colds

Why should asthma be taken seriously?

Left untreated, asthma can disrupt sleep and other activities. It may also put you at risk for a serious — even life-threatening — asthma attack. If you think you may have asthma, see your doctor.*

What if you’ve already seen your doctor and still have trouble managing symptoms? Check back in. It may be time to adjust your treatment plan.

Take control — to help you breathe easier

You may help manage your asthma with these four steps:

1. Work with your doctor to develop a written asthma action plan.

2. Identify your triggers — what makes your symptoms worse. And make a plan to avoid or manage them.

3. Take your medicines as directed.

4. Monitor your asthma. Know how to respond quickly to the warning signs of an asthma attack.

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What to do next

Discover six tips to help stop asthma flare-ups. Go to uhc.com/asthma.


*Check your benefit plan to see what services may be covered.

The information provided here is for general informational purposes only and is not intended to be nor should be construed as medical or other advice. Talk to an appropriate health care professional to determine what may be right for you.

Last reviewed June 2017

© 2017 United HealthCare Services, Inc.