Asthma Symptoms & Treatment

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Our Approach to Treatment

Houston Methodist’s pulmonologists, respiratory therapists and staff are committed to patients with asthma, a complex condition requiring expert evaluation and management. Our pulmonologists work with you to determine the best treatment.

Asthma Triggers


  • Dust
  • Animal fur
  • Cockroaches
  • Mold
  • Pollens


  • Cigarette Smoke
  • Pollution
  • Workplace chemicals or dust in the workplace
  • Product and spray compounds such as hairspray
  • Medicines
    • Pain relievers such as aspirin
    • Nonselective beta-blockers


Foods and drink sulfites


Upper respiratory viral infections such as colds


Experts do not know what causes asthma. Researchers think genetic and environmental factors merge, causing the condition, often during childhood. Common causes may include:

  • A genetic tendency to develop allergies (atopy)
  • Parents with asthma
  • Certain childhood respiratory infections
  • Some airborne allergens or exposure to some viral infections during infancy or early childhood
  • Exercise-induced asthma, or exercise-induced bronchoconstriction


Asthma is a chronic lung disease that inflames and narrows the airways, making breathing difficult.


  • Spirometry – a noninvasive lung function test that detects asthma before symptoms become severe. It measures the speed and amount of air blown out of the lungs
  • Bronchoprovocation – uses repeated spirometry to determine your airway’s reaction or sensitivity to increasing doses of cold air
  • Peak flow meter – a device used each morning for asthma management


Symptoms can be mild and go away or abate after using medication. More intense symptoms indicate an asthma attack, also known as a flare up or an exacerbation. Immediate treatment may prevent a severe attack. Symptoms can include:

  • Nighttime and early morning coughing
  • Wheezing, whistling or squeaking while breathing
  • Chest tightness
  • Trouble breathing

Call 911 immediately if you experience these conditions:

  • Prescribed medicines do not relieve an asthma attack 
  • Trouble walking and talking because you're out of breath
  • Blue lips or fingernails


You and your health care providers will develop an action plan based on medications, asthma trigger avoidance, asthma control tracking and worsening symptom response. Patients may need: 

  • Quick-relief or rescue bronchodilators (inhaled medications that expand lung passageways and improve breathing)
  • Long-term or controller medicines taken daily for symptom and attack prevention
  • Allergy shots
  • Bronchial thermosplasty – for severe and persistent asthma
  • Corticosteroids and bronchodilators

Seek medical attention when:

  • Symptoms occur more often, are more severe or interfere with sleep
  • You limit activities or miss school or work
  • Your peak flow number becomes lower than your personal best or drastically varies from day to day
  • Asthma medications lose effectiveness
  • You use your quick-relief inhaler more than two days a week



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