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What is Asthma?

Asthma is a chronic, long-term disease of the lungs that causes breathing problems due to a narrowing of the airways or the “bronchi” in the lungs. It is also referred to as “Bronchial Asthma.”

What are the Bronchi?

The bronchi are passageways in the body’s respiratory system that conduct air into the lungs. When you take a deep breath through your nose or mouth, the air will travel into your larynx (the voice box in your throat). From here, air will travel through the trachea (your windpipe) which carries the air to the bronchi (Your lungs have a bronchus on the right and left)

What causes Asthma?

Asthma occurs when the breathing tubes narrow and become inflamed due to the release of natural chemicals in the body in response to external triggers such as infections e.g. a cold, flu or when somebody comes into contact with something they are allergic to.

This inflammation makes the bronchi (breathing tubes) narrower and therefore more difficult to get air in and out of the lungs. This creates breathlessness and tightness in the chest and maybe also accompanied by wheezing and a dry irritating cough.

Triggers of asthma can vary from person to person and may include the following:

  • Heartburn
  • Sinusitis
  • Environmental irritants (car fumes, air pollution, smoke)
  • Certain foods and food additives
  • Allergens: grass and tree pollens, pet dander, dust
  • Stress
  • Certain medications such as anti-inflammatories
  • Strenuous exercise
  • Respiratory infections such as seasonal flu
  • Weather (cold weather especially)

Does Asthma run in the family?

Asthma affects men and women of all ages. According to Asthma UK, there are around 5 million people in the UK who receive treatment for Asthma.

All types of Asthma are known to have some genetic components. It is also known that a person is more likely to develop asthma if there is a history of in the family. Clinical studies show that almost 70% of an individuals risk factor for developing Asthma is genetic.

That being said people can develop asthma without any genetic predisposition for it. Genetics are certainly not the only cause of asthma. It is well known that environmental factors can play a large part in its development.

What are common signs and symptoms of Asthma?

Common signs and symptoms of Asthma include:

  • Wheezing (commonly associated with a whistling sound whilst breathing)
  • Feeling short of breath or breathlessness
  • Tightness and/or mild pain in the chest
  • Persistent coughing

Whilst these symptoms can be triggered by a number of factors, there are certain indicators that make it more likely that it as a result of Asthma.

If your symptoms are;

  1. Persistent and reoccurring (such as persistent wheezing or coughing)
  2. Feel like they are worse or more intense when you wake up or at night
  3. Return in response to common asthma triggers such as allergens or strenuous exercise

How is Asthma Diagnosed?

Asthma can be diagnosed by visiting your GP where you will likely undergo a series of tests. In certain cases, you may be referred to a specialist. The common tests for asthma are:

  • FeNO test: This involves breathing into an apparatus that measures the level of Nitric Oxide in your breath. The level of Nitric Oxide in your breath can determine whether there is an underlying inflammation in your lungs.
  • Peak Flow reading: This involves blowing into a small device that measures the speed at which you breathe out. Typically, this is monitored by your pharmacist or GP over a number of weeks to see how effective your treatment has been.
  • Spirometer: A spirometer is an apparatus that measures the volume of air that is inspired and expired by your lungs. It aims to identify two different types of abnormal ventilation patterns; Obtrusive and Restrictive.

If you would like to know more about asthma diagnosis, please contact us at help@expresspharmacy.co.uk and ask to speak to one of our pharmacists.

What is an asthma attack?

An asthma attack is the sudden worsening of your asthma symptoms. During this episode, your airways become inflamed and produce more mucus than normal. Muscles around your airways also contract (bronchospasm) making it harder to breathe. Mild asthma attacks can be treated at home by treatments like an asthma inhaler. Severe asthma attacks, on the other hand, are life-threatening.

How to treat Asthma

Asthma cannot currently be cured, however, there are a range of treatments that can be prescribed by your GP or Pharmacist prescriber and are available in pharmacies. These treatments can help to control your underlying asthma symptoms and deliver significant quality of life.


Reliever Inhalers

The most common inhaler is the blue inhaler, commonly known as Ventolin. Most people with asthma will be given a blue reliever inhaler which will likely contain Salbutamol. These are typically used to treat the symptoms as they occur and should relieve your symptoms with minutes.

Reliever Inhalers are important for all asthma sufferers as they act quickly in case of an emergency. For this reason, you should always carry a short-acting Reliever Inhaler with you.

If you have to use your blue inhaler more than 3 times a week, please consult your GP, pharmacist or asthma nurse. You may then be prescribed a preventer inhaler or may undergo further assessment of your symptoms.

Preventer Inhalers

Regular use of a Reliever Inhaler can sometimes lead to you being prescribed a preventer inhaler. Preventer Inhalers are administered daily to reduce the inflammatory effects of asthma and can help to reduce the sensitivity in the airways. If your symptoms continue whilst using a preventer inhaler, please consult your GP, Pharmacist or Asthma nurse. Preventer Inhalers normally contain a corticosteroid.

Combination Inhalers

If your symptoms do not get any better after using a Reliever Inhaler or a Preventer Inhaler, you may be prescribed a Combination Inhaler.

Combination Inhalers are used everyday to help stop symptoms occurring and provide long-lasting relief when they appear. In most cases, you will also need to keep a separate Reliever Inhaler with you. This is because your Combination Inhaler will not provide you with quick relief in case of an emergency.

Other treatments for managing Asthma

In certain cases where an inhaler is not able to control your asthma symptoms, you may be prescribed LTRA tablets.

LTRA tablets (Leukotriene Receptor Antagonists) are the main tablets that are used to manage asthma symptoms and are also available in syrup or tablet form. These can be used every day to stop symptoms reoccurring. The most common type of LTRA is called Montelukast, which is also known by its brand name Singulair.

Living with Asthma

Most people who have asthma are able to live normal lives with the aid of a few useful tips.

  • Know your triggers: Understand what triggers your asthma and keep a physical note of it. Each person’s asthma is different and is triggered by different factors.
  • Have regular check-ups with your GP, Pharmacist or Asthma Nurse so that they can monitor your condition.
  • Keep a Reliever Inhaler with you at all times. They can be very useful in an emergency and provide almost immediate relief from symptoms.
  • Stop Smoking: stopping smoking can play a massive role in reducing the severity and regularity of your asthma symptoms. For more information on how to stop smoking, visit our Stop Smoking page or ask to speak to one of our Smoking Cessation Advisors by contacting our Patient Support Team.

Asthma and Covid-19

The government has released a set of guidelines for individuals that are at high-risk of contracting Coronavirus due to underlying respiratory conditions. This includes Asthma sufferers, and especially those who suffer from severe asthma.

If you have received a letter from the government identifying you as someone who is at high-risk, you should follow the advice on shielding contained with.

If you have not been contacted, but have asthma, you should follow the rules for social distancing that apply to everyone during the current period. Social Distancing plays a large role in preventing the spread of Coronavirus and it is imperative that everyone follows the government advice.

Our price promise commitment means that as we match prices nationally, prices will go down (and up) accordingly.

If you see or buy a treatment online and find it cheaper with a high street competitor (whether or not they also sell online), as long as their service conditions are comparable, then we’ll match that price for you or refund the difference. The cost of the treatment must include consultation charges for medication without a prior prescription. Comparable service conditions include factors such as delivery charges and timescales (such as Shutl delivery), and consultation charges.

If you’ve already purchased the treatment online, please make sure you report the price match within 28 days of receiving it. If you’d like to buy the product but want us to price match first, please check that you’re providing the most up to date information you can obtain when you submit your claim.

We’ll be asking you for full details of the treatment, the competitor and their prices, so please do check that you have this information to hand before you contact us.

Please note though, that we won’t refund the difference in price paid if you could have bought the product more cheaply with an online-only retailer: examples of this include chemistdirect.co.uk, who sell only through their websites or mail order and not via high street shops. We also don’t match competitors who are in administration or closing down.

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