When Is Asthma Not Asthma?

Could It Be Something Else Other Than Asthma?

Just because you have the symptoms of asthma, doesn't mean you necessarily have the disease. There are other conditions that mimic the symptoms of asthma. These include:

1. Post-Nasal Drip
Excess mucus runs down the back of the nose, into the throat and airways (usually triggered by an allergy such as hay fever). This produces a phlegmy cough which is sometimes mistaken for asthma.

2. Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD)
A disorder where acid from the stomach escapes and flows up the esophagus (wind pipe). The primary symptom is heartburn, although heartburn can cause asthma-like symptoms. GERD can also aggravate asthma in those already with asthma. Babies, children and adults can all suffer from this problem. If you have GERD, usually symptoms come on at night after a late dinner or when lying down.

3. Panic Attacks
Panic attacks in non-asthmatics are sometimes mistakenly diagnosed as asthma if they cause breathlessness.

4. Aspiration
Accidentally breathing something into the lungs or airways which triggers breathing difficulties.

5. Obstruction
Upper airflow obstruction is where the flow of air to the lungs is blocked by something, for example a cancer tumor or an enlarged thyroid gland.

6 Vocal Cord Problems
If the muscles in the voice box contract (close rapidly), it makes a loud wheezing noise which sounds like asthma. This condition however can also affect those with asthma. Sometimes the cause is psychological.

7. Bronchiectasis
The airways have been stretched or damaged due to a diseases caught in childhood, such as pneumonia or whooping cough. This causes lifelong breathlessness.

8. Low-level Carbon Monoxide Poisoning
Usually from gas fires, which can cause breathlessness and fatigue.

9. Aspergillosis
Fungal infection caused when spores from damp straw, compost heaps or bird cages are inhaled and grow on the lungs. This disease sometimes accompanies asthma or can mimic it. Tell-tale signs include a fever when 'asthma' attack is severe, rubbery plugs of phlegm green or golden-brown in color and worsening of symptoms despite treatment.

Children Only ..

1. An Inhaled Object
Such as a nut or part of a toy - becoming stuck in the airways. In babies it can also be inhalation of milk droplets; if so, the 'asthma' comes on mainly after feeding.

2. Heiner's Syndrome
This condition affects babies only and is very rare. It's a severe allergy to cow's milk which can lead to wheezing and bleeding of the lungs. The child is pale, sickly, slow to grow and may suffer repeated bouts of pneumonia.

3. Bronchiolitis
A viral infection which affects the small airways (the bronchioles) of babies and toddlers. Unlike asthma, it usually produces fever.

See also: When is a cough asthma?

What Is Asthma?: Easy definition.
What Causes Asthma? The DNA, family and lifestyle connection.
How Is Asthma Diagnosed?: Testing For The Disease.
What Are The Symptoms Of Asthma? Discover the top signs.
What Is The Best Exercise For Asthma? Exercise is still recommended.
What Is The Treatment For Asthma? Therapies and drugs.
What Is An Asthma Diet? Fighting symptoms with food.

What Triggers An Asthma Attack?: Top 10 Triggers.

• Got another question? See: Allergy Questions

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