Symptoms: Breathlessness, tight chest, coughing and wheezing – a whistling sound when you breathe. Symptoms tend to be worse at night or early in the morning, or during or after exercise, or when somebody's exposed to certain 'triggers' like dust, pollen and certain types of animal hair.
Who's at risk? Asthma is quite a common condition with around 5.4 million children and adults currently being treated for it in the UK. It often comes on during childhood but can start during adulthood too. There's sometimes a family history, so people whose parents and siblings have asthma may be at higher risk. There's also a link with common allergies, to things such as dust, pollen and pets which, as mentioned above, can trigger symptoms.
Go to the doctor: If you're concerned that you have asthma, it's important to go to your GP so they can assess your symptoms and ensure you're treated appropriately. Those already diagnosed should seek medical help immediately if there's a chance they're suffering an asthma attack - when symptoms worsen to the extent that you're too breathless to speak, eat or sleep and your inhaler isn't helping. If symptoms continue to worsen, dial 999. In rare cases, without urgent medical attention, asthma attacks can be fatal.
How to treat it: Most people can manage their asthma very well and carry on with life as normal, provided they have the right treatment and avoid specific triggers that they know make their symptoms worse. 'Reliever' inhalers relax your airwaves, making it easier to breathe again when symptoms flare up, while 'preventer' inhalers can help stop attacks happening.