Woman in white shirt using an asthma inhaler

Asthma is a chronic condition that is caused by inflammation in your airways.

Asthma can be allergy-induced, meaning it is caused by the same kinds of things that produce an allergic reaction, such as dust, mould, pet dander or pollen. Or it can be non-allergy-induced, caused by exercise, smoke or a viral infection like a cold.

What You’ll Learn About Asthma in This Article

What You’ll Learn About Asthma in This Article


Asthma symptoms

Common asthma symptoms include:

  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • Coughing, usually worse at night
  • A tight feeling in the chest
  • Wheezing

Emergency symptoms may be signs of a medical emergency that requires immediate attention. Seek medical attention right away if you experience:

  • Excessive coughing/wheezing
  • Extreme chest tightness; very labored/fast breathing
  • Sweating, gasping; anxiety or fear; decreased activity level
  • Pale blue lips/fingertips

Asthma triggers

A trigger is anything that causes your airway muscles to become inflamed and tightened. Examples of asthma triggers include:

  • Dust and dust mites
  • Mould
  • Pollens (e.g., grass, trees, flowers)
  • Cold or hot, humid air
  • Animal dander
  • Fumes and scents (e.g., perfume)
  • Smoke
  • Exercise
  • Chest infections

It’s important to know what triggers your asthma, and take care to avoid your triggers at all times.


Asthma controllers

Also called “asthma preventers”, asthma controllers are medications that help reduce inflammation in airways. By controlling inflammation over time, asthma controllers may diminish symptoms and prevent asthma attacks. It may take a few weeks before a controller reduces inflammation in your airways.

Controller medications are taken every day, whether or not you have symptoms. You will not be able to control your asthma over time WITHOUT a preventer medication. Examples include:

  • Inhaled corticosteroids
  • Leukotriene receptor antagonists
  • Corticosteroid pills

Asthma relievers

Also called “rescue medication”, asthma relievers are used to quickly relieve asthma symptoms by relaxing airways so air can pass more easily. You only take reliever medication when experiencing asthma symptoms or (if prescribed), before you exercise . If you use one, keep your reliever medication with you at all times.

If you’re using reliever medication 4 or more times a week, your asthma is not well controlled. Your doctor may need to adjust your medication dosage, or try another type.
Examples of reliever medication include:

  • Short-acting bronchodilators

Combination medications

Combination medications are inhaled corticosteroids and long-acing bronchodilators. These are a type of controller medication that combine two different medicines to help control your asthma symptoms in two ways. The bronchodilator helps to widen your airways, making it easier for you to breathe, and the inhaled steroid helps reduce and prevent inflammation of your airways.

Remember, the Pharmacist at Walmart can offer you advice on how to get the most from your asthma/allergy medications and can check your inhaler technique. Just ask!


Additional resources

Contact the Asthma Canada’s Allergy and Asthma Education and Support program:

Email: [email protected]

Telephone: 1-866-787-4050

You can also join the National Asthma Patient Alliance. There are many benefits to joining, including newsletters, discussion forums, expert advice and a copy of the Asthma Patient Bill of Rights:

Web: www.asthma.ca/napa

Email: [email protected]

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Ask your Walmart Pharmacist, asthma educator or doctor about an Asthma Action Plan.

Following an action plan can be a key step to controlling your asthma symptoms.

Legal: This information should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your doctor. There may be variations in treatment that your physician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances. If you have questions about your symptoms, ask the Pharmacist at Walmart for more information, and/or contact your doctor.