How close are we to the cure for asthma

Asthma - when it is difficult to breathe

What is asthma?

In asthma, the airways are permanently inflamed. They swell and narrow. As a result, you can no longer breathe in and out unhindered.

Make a difference between professionals allergic and non-allergic asthma. Common complaints are:

  • Shortness of breath that occurs repeatedly in attacks
  • Cough with or without phlegm formation

The symptoms can sometimes be stronger and sometimes weaker. There are also periods of no discomfort. Sudden severe discomfort with shortness of breath is an asthma attack. That can become an emergency.

Trigger for complaints

People with asthma have hypersensitive airways. They react to different triggers:

  • Allergens
    are substances that people are allergic to. Common allergens are, for example, plant pollen, house dust mites and animal hair.
  • Time of day and time of year
    often play a role in the course of the disease.
  • Physical strain
    especially a sudden change between relaxation and exertion can narrow the airways.
  • Respiratory infections
    can lead to asthmatic complaints.
  • Medication,
    narrowing the airways can make the symptoms worse.
  • Feelings
    a lot of stress, can possibly lead to increased symptoms.
  • Irritants,
    that you breathe in at home or in places. Such irritants are, for example, polluted air or tobacco smoke.

How is asthma diagnosed?

Asthma and possible triggers are determined by various examinations:

  • Interview and physical examination
  • Measuring lung function: When Spirometry it measures how well or poorly the breathing air can flow through the airways.


The treatment depends on your symptoms, including possible asthma attacks.

The experts agree: The most important thing in allergic asthma is to avoid the trigger as far as possible. If that alone doesn't help, drugs are used. Experts prefer to recommend agents that can be inhaled - i.e. inhaled. The side effects in the body are then lower. It is important that you learn how to use the inhaler correctly in your doctor's office or pharmacy.

To quickly relieve sudden discomfort, there is Reliever medicationthat widen the airways in the lungs instantly. Short-acting ones are particularly suitable for this Betamimetics as a spray.

Anyone who needs reliever medication more than twice a week should start long-term treatment. Children should be able to cope with their everyday life completely without reliever medication. The most important Permanent medication is inhalable cortisone as a spray or powder. It works against the inflammation and thus against the cause of the discomfort. It is important to inhale the cortisone regularly so that the inflammation does not return. Those who use it on a long-term basis have fewer asthma attacks and are less likely to come to the hospital for it. Cortisone can also prevent deaths from asthma. If the cortisone alone is not enough, other medications are added.

Specialists recommend complementary measures to improve the success of the treatment. These include: not smoking, taking part in asthma training courses, learning self-help techniques for respiratory distress and regular physical training.

What you can do yourself

  • You can learn how to inhale properly. There is another information sheet for inhalation (see below "Answers to your questions when visiting a doctor")

  • It is advisable to observe yourself. As an aid, you can write down your symptoms in an asthma diary. This will give you an overview of the course of the disease.
  • Exercise is good for you. It is important to warm up before every exercise and to slowly reduce the load at the end. Discuss with your treatment team which medication you can take if necessary.
  • You can learn certain breathing techniques, for example brake lip. There are also postures that make breathing easier, such as the coachman's seat or the goalkeeper's posture.
  • Try to quit smoking. This also applies if your child has asthma. Good studies show that people with asthma who were exposed to less tobacco smoke were less likely to have a severe asthma attack and therefore had to receive emergency treatment less often.
  • In a training course you will learn, among other things, how the dosage of the medication is to be adapted to the symptoms.

You can take part in an asthma care program (DMP Asthma for short). The aim is that your care by the various general practitioners and specialist practices is coordinated with one another. Talk to your treatment team about it.

November 2018, published by the German Medical Association and the National Association of Statutory Health Insurance Physicians