A. Symptoms of asthma may include episodic complaints of breathing difficulties, seasonal or nighttime cough, prolonged shortness of breath after a respiratory infection, or difficulty sustaining exercise.
B. Wheezing does not always represent asthma. Wheezing may persist for weeks after an acute bronchitis episode. Patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease may have a reversible component superimposed on their fixed obstruction. Etiologic clues include a personal history of allergic disease, such as rhinitis or atopic dermatitis, and a family history of allergic disease.
C. The frequency of daytime and nighttime symptoms, duration of exacerbations and asthma triggers should be assessed.
D. Physical examination. Hyperventilation, use of accessory muscles of respiration, audible wheezing, and a prolonged expiratory phase are common. Increased nasal secretions or congestion, polyps, and eczema may be present.
E. Measurement of lung function. An increase in the forced expiratory volume in one second (FEV1) of 12% after treatment with an inhaled beta2 agonist is sufficient to make the diagnosis of asthma. A 12% change in peak expiratory flow rate (PEFR) measured on a peak-flow meter is also diagnostic.
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If you suffer with asthma, you will no doubt be familiar with the uncomfortable sensations as your bronchial tubes begin to narrow and your muscles around them start to tighten. A sticky mucus known as phlegm begins to produce and increase within your bronchial tubes and you begin to wheeze, cough and struggle to breathe.