Patient Information


What is asthma?

Asthma is a common medical condition that affects the lungs. More specifically, asthma causes tightening of the airways in the lungs. When a person comes into contact with an asthma trigger, the muscles in the walls of the airways tighten, and this narrows the airways.

What are the symptoms of asthma?

Because asthma causes narrowing of the airways, feeling breathless is one of the most obvious symptoms of an asthma attack.

Different people can have different symptoms, which can also include:

  • a tight chest feeling (like a band tightening around your chest)
  • wheezing (which can make a whistling sound when you breathe)
  • coughing (particularly at night and early in the morning)

What causes asthma?

As with many medical conditions, there is no single cause.

Certain things may increase your chance of having asthma, such as:

  • family history – it is common for asthma to ‘run in families’.
  • developing another allergy – like a food allergy
  • having any lung diseases as a child (e.g., bronchiolitis)
  • exposed to tobacco smoke as a child
  • premature birth
  • low birth weight

How common is asthma?

14.6% It is important to remember you are not alone. In the Republic of Ireland, approximately 14.6% of the population1 suffer from asthma. Adult asthma is more common in women than men.

What are asthma triggers?

These are anything that irritates your airways and brings on the symptoms of asthma.

Common triggers include:

  • house dust mites
  • animal fur
  • pollen
  • tobacco smoke
  • exercise
  • cold air
  • chest infections

Different people can have different asthma triggers and some people may have several triggers.


Managing your Asthma

What does well-controlled asthma mean?

If you take your medicine as prescribed by your doctor, you should be able to live your life without asthma symptoms getting in the way. This means your asthma is well controlled.

How do I know if my asthma is well controlled?

Peak flow diaries and asthma action plans can be very useful for tracking your asthma symptoms and how well your lungs are working. If you don’t have these, speak to your doctor or nurse.

Ask yourself the following 3 questions:

In the past month…


Have you had difficulty sleeping because of your asthma symptoms?


Have you had your usual asthma symptoms during the day?


Has your asthma interfered with your usual activities?

If you answered ‘yes’ to any of these questions, then your asthma could be better controlled. Speak to your doctor or nurse to review your asthma treatment.
If you are experiencing asthma symptoms, you should talk to your doctor or nurse so that you may become symptom-free.