Asthma Is Not a "One Size Fits All" Disease
There are many different types of asthma. When a person is diagnosed with asthma, they often have many questions about the disease and are oftentimes unaware that there are several different types of asthma. Below I'll hopefully help you understand a few of the most common asthma types.
The most common types of asthma
Allergic asthma is triggered/brought on by exposure to an allergen. If your asthma is triggered by allergies, talk with your doctor about having allergy testing done to help pinpoint what exactly you are allergic to. Then you can take steps to avoid these allergies or have a plan when you are exposed to them.
Cough-variant asthma is where the main symptom is coughing. People with cough-variant asthma do not usually have the other common asthma symptoms such as wheezing, shortness of breath, and tightness in the chest. This is probably the most difficult asthma type to diagnose. A lot of the time, a person with suspected cough variant asthma will have completely normal lung function testing or spirometry. When this is the case, a methacholine challenge test is usually needed to confirm the asthma diagnosis.
In Exercised-induced asthma, the only time you may have asthma symptoms is during or immediately after exercise. If this is the type of asthma you have, talk with your doctor to see if he or she recommends using your rescue inhaler before exercising to help prevent asthma flare-ups that could prevent you from being as active as you would like to be.
Occupational asthma occurs when you are exposed to a specific trigger or triggers that cause asthma symptoms while at work. These triggers could be chemical fumes, gases, or dust to name a few. Many industrial or factory jobs can lead to occupational asthma symptoms. This type of asthma will cause the typical wheezing, tightness in the chest, and shortness of breath. If caught and treated early, occupational asthma can be reversed most of the time.
Repeated exposure can lead to lifelong asthma even after switching jobs or careers. It's important to figure out if your asthma is occupationally triggered because if it is, you would want to explore other jobs that would not have as much of an adverse reaction to your health. If this is not a possibility, taking steps to protect yourself while at work is essential such as wearing a filtered mask etc.
Non-allergic asthma is exactly what it sounds like. It involves constriction and inflammation of the airways that is set off by triggers such as smoke, cold air, chemicals, and many more. This is the type of asthma I have.
What sets off one person's asthma might not set off another person's. One of my biggest triggers is smoke (both fire and cigarette smoke.) It is important to figure out what your triggers are in order to know what to avoid. It is also very common for asthma symptoms to occur following a chest infection or viral cold.
Avoid your triggers the best you can
As with the common types of asthma listed above, your best bet is to try and avoid your triggers the best you can.
It is possible for a person to cross over into more than one of these asthma types. A person with allergic asthma can also have an increase in asthma symptoms following a chest or upper respiratory infection as well as be set off by triggers that aren't solely allergy specific (such as pet dander etc). Also, a person with non-allergic asthma can have asthma symptoms during and after exercise as well.
Have you developed a new food allergy in the last 5 years?