The highs and lows of asthma

Asthma is a variable condition, which means that symptoms are different between people, and symptoms in the same person are different during different points in time (i.e., over the course of a year). One of the goals of asthma treatment is to minimize this variability, and therefore have the best possible control of symptoms.

Your level of asthma control is dependent on the number of asthma symptoms that you experience regularly. Signs of uncontrolled asthma include:

  • Daytime asthma symptoms more than twice/week
  • Waking up at night from asthma
  • Using your reliever medication more than twice/week
  • Physical activity limitations due to asthma

There are 3 levels of asthma control:

  • controlled - a person with controlled asthma does not experience any uncontrolled asthma symptoms in a given month.
  • partly controlled - if you’ve noticed 1-2 signs of uncontrolled asthma over the past month, it means that your asthma is partly controlled.
  • uncontrolled – your asthma is considered uncontrolled if you experience 3 or more signs of uncontrolled asthma in a month.
  • But even if your asthma is controlled, you can still experience asthma attacks (exacerbations). Your risk may be increased if you have other risk factors, such as certain medical conditions or poor inhaler technique.

Asthma attacks are episodes of progressive increases in one or more of the following symptoms:

  • shortness of breath
  • cough
  • wheezing
  • chest tightness

During an asthma attack, poor lung function can also be reliably measured by peak expiratory flow rates or by other lung measurements at a doctor's office or laboratory. A decrease in your peak expiratory flow rate can signal an upcoming asthma attack even days before you experience any symptoms.

Asthma attacks can vary from mild to severe. Treatment for the attack will depend on the severity.

If you are being treated at an emergency department, you will be measured and monitored for the following:

  • peak expiratory flow rates (only in people who are older than 5 years of age)
  • pulse rate (how fast your heart is beating)
  • respiratory rate (how fast you are breathing)
  • pulse oximetry (how much oxygen is in the blood)

All material copyright MediResource Inc. 1996 – 2022. Terms and conditions of use. The contents herein are for informational purposes only. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Source: