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Could it be Asthma

By some estimates, 26 million people in the U.S. have asthma. But because their symptoms may not be severe, many don't know they have this chronic disease, which inflames and narrows the airways.

Asthma doesn't get better on its own. If it isn't diagnosed and treated, its symptoms can become serious, even life-threatening. About nine people in the U.S. die from asthma attacks every day.

“There is no cure for asthma,” said Brian Geshel, cardiopulmonary services manager for Aspirus. “Asthma can be managed if you learn how to control it.”

Untreated or poorly managed asthma can cause scarring in the airways. And once the airways are scarred, asthma medicines don't work as well.

That's why it's crucial to recognize asthma's warning signs and symptoms and to tell your doctor if you have any. Watch for:

Coughing. It may be worse early in the morning or at night, making it hard to sleep. You might also cough during exercise or when laughing.

Wheezing. This whistling or squeaking sound occurs when you breathe.

Chest tightness. You may feel as though something is squeezing or sitting on your chest.

Shortness of breath. You may feel like you can't get air in or out of your lungs.

According to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, a spirometry test is the best way to diagnose asthma in adults and in children five years and older with symptoms. This simple breathing test can help determine if you have asthma and not another problem that might cause asthma-like symptoms.

“The cause of someone’s asthma isn’t always known,” Geshel said. “Sometimes symptoms are mild and may go away on their own, and other times, symptoms get worse.”

Don’t delay care – seek immediate medical help if you find yourself unable to breathe or with any emergency asthmatic symptoms.

For more information on the Aspirus asthma education center, visit aspirus.org.