Dear Barb – Adult Asthma

Hi Barb: My father is in his early sixties and has always been in good health. Last year, I noticed he was coughing a lot, mostly in the evening. He went to his doctor and was given a prescription for cough suppressant. As soon as he was finished the prescription, his cough returned. Following a series of tests, my father was diagnosed with asthma. I didn’t realize a person could get asthma at my father’s age. I’d like to know more about this condition, so I can help my father to understand it. Do you know where I can get additional information about asthma?

Carey in Red Deer, Alberta.

Hi Carey, I’m sorry to hear of your father’s condition. According to the Asthma Society of Canada (, asthma affects about three million Canadians and 60% do not have it under control. Asthma that is not controlled leads to severe attacks that can permanently damage the lungs.

Many people who get asthma have been diagnosed as a child, with the symptoms disappearing and then returning with adulthood. Asthma can be hereditary, or it can be brought on by exposure to certain environmental or occupational triggers. Although the exact cause of your father’s asthma may not be known, it can be controlled in most cases, with the proper medication.

The symptoms of asthma include, but are not limited to, the following:

“¢ breathlessness,
“¢ coughing,
“¢ tightness in the chest,
“¢ wheezing, and
“¢ excess production of mucus.

These symptoms can vary from mild to severe. Triggers that can bring on these symptoms may include:

“¢ dust mites,
“¢ animals,
“¢ mould,
“¢ pollen,
“¢ viral infection,
“¢ air pollution,
“¢ smoke,
“¢ exercise, and
“¢ intense emotion.

After receiving a diagnosis of asthma, it is very important that your father gets his symptoms under control. There are two different treatment options available to control the symptoms of asthma.

Controllers are medications that are taken once or twice a day. Even when symptoms are under control, they must continue taking this medication or the symptoms will reappear. Relievers are used when experiencing acute symptoms, as these medications work immediately to open up the asthmatic’s airways. However, they will not help to reduce the inflammation in the airways.

Your father will probably be referred to a specialist who will prescribe the medication required to help live a mostly symptom-free life. You and your father may find it helpful to check out the Asthma Society of Canada’s website ( to answer additional questions. Thanks for writing.

E-mail your questions to Some submissions may be edited for length or to protect confidentiality: your real name and location will never be printed. This column is for entertainment only. The author is not a professional counsellor and this column is not intended to take the place of professional advice.

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