WHAT IS ASTHMA?ASTHMA is an allergic condition that is often inherited from our parents. With this condition, our bodies see certain environmental triggers as a threat and therefore overreact in trying to get rid of them.The chest tightens, it may even close completely, and it also produces more mucous (phlegm). When this happens one is said to have an asthma attack. Triggers can include dust, mould, droppings, cold air or chemicals, among others.There is no specific test to see whether you have asthma or not, but diagnosis is normally done by excluding other conditions and by taking note of medical history, i.e. does asthma run in your family? Have you suffered chest problems in the past?I HAVE BEEN DIAGNOSED. NOW WHAT?Firstly, it is important to understand what triggers your asthma attack and then to try to avoid it. Secondly, keep a detailed timetable of when you suffer attacks. This becomes a very handy tool in managing your medication and treatment. If you miss a dose of medication or if you are using any other occasional medication for maybe a sore throat or sprained leg, also include this on your asthma calendar. This is because some medication, such as anti-inflammatories and blood-pressure medication, can affect asthma control. You should speak to your doctor or pharmacist about medication that affects it. How do I take my medication?The goal of treatment is to eventually be symptom free. But before we get to that let’s explain the types of medication. Firstly, you get two types of pumps — relievers and preventers. Relievers are used to get over an asthma attack if it happens, while preventers (like the name suggests) prevent an asthma attack from occurring. Tablets or syrups are the same, some prevent and others provide relief. It is important to understand which is which. Ideally, you should use as few as possible relievers. If you are using a lot of these your asthma is not under control. On the other hand, you need to use your preventers daily as prescribed to keep it under control. Ask your pharmacist to explain to you in detail how to use your medication. If you are not using it correctly it won’t work like you want it to.MYTHS• I haven’t had an asthma attack in months. Surely I can stop this medication.This is untrue. Asthma is a chronic condition. The fact that you are not having an attack means that your medication is working.• Asthma pumps weakens my lungs.Asthma is not a lung weakness and treating it does not make your lungs lazy. It is a medical ailment and has to be treated as such, besides there has been no evidence that medication leads to “weaker lungs”. Keep using your medication as prescribed.• I suffer an asthma attack occasionally. I only have to take my medication as required.The key here is to prevent an asthma attack from occurring. This can only be maintained by using you medication everyday as prescribed. If you are using a reliever, eg: • I have asthma therefore I can’t exercise.Asthma often worsens with excessive exercise, therefore it is suggested to do shorter aerobic exercises. A 30-minute walk with a five minute warm-up, three times a week, is often well-tolerated.— Supplied by Royal Pharmacy.There is no specific test to see whether you have asthma or not, but diagnosis is normally done by excluding other conditions and by taking note of medical history, i.e. does asthma run in your family?