Asthma FAQ’s 1

  • 1st Revision: Madison Starks
  • 2nd Revision: Alex Jasnosz
  • 3rd Revision: Tricia Li

What's the difference between vocal cord dysfunction and asthma? 

Asthma is an immune system disorder in response to allergens in the body while vocal cord dysfunction is not.1 Vocal cord dysfunction happens with the same triggers as lung irritants and exercising but in this condition the vocal cord muscles tighten, resulting in the upper airways of the lung exhibiting trauma.2 An asthma attack occurs when the muscles of the bronchial tubes tighten.  Asthma is also a problem associated with lower respiratory tracts.1 While signs and symptoms are similar, the key difference between the two conditions is vocal cord dysfunction.  Breathing in creates more problems as opposed to breathing out, and asthma medications do not help in reducing symptoms.2

What are the treatments for asthma? 

There are two main types of asthma medications, long-term relief medications and "quick" relief inhalers. Long-term relief medications such as long-acting beta-agonists, anticholinergics, and immune modulators are inhaled corticosteroids and are used daily or regularly to prevent asthma attacks.3 “Quick” relief medications, also known as bronchodilators, are used for instant relief whenever breathing gets problematic to prevent a full-blown asthma attack.  Inhalers, nebulizers and pills are also available for the long-term treatment of asthma.3 Over-the-counter drugs are not advised.

What are the typical symptoms of a severe attack of asthma? 

According to

  • Shortness of breath 
  • Inability to breathe while lying down
  • Inability to speak 
  • Tightness in chest
  • Bluish tint to lips 
  • Getting up or sitting quite frequently to be able to breathe
  • Inability to concentrate, dizziness and confusion. 
  • Shoulder and neck muscle pain

What happens to the body during an asthma attack? 

During an asthma attack, three things happen:

  1. Bronchospasm: The airways called the bronchial tubes constrict, narrowing and preventing air from flowing through the airways.4
  2. Inflammation: The constricted airways become sites of immune reaction and result in swelling of the airways, causing inflammation.5
  3. Mucus production: The body creates more mucus that clogs airways, making breathing extremely difficult.6

How do you monitor asthma symptoms? 

Patients should keep a journal or diary and write down symptoms,  triggers,  episodes, and usage of quick relief nebulizers daily. You can also use health-tracking apps, smartphones and electronic devices to allow you to add notes and notifications regularly. A peak flow meter is also another way to monitor asthma, especially in children. 

What should you do if you have a severe asthma attack?

If you are having a severe asthma attack it is important to use quick-relief medications and get to emergency care immediately. This would involve using the drug every two to four hours. In emergency care they may also use quick-relief medications like Albuterol but in a nebulizer and as a mist for deep breathing inside the lungs.7


  1. Quirt J, Hildebrand K.J., Mazza, J., Noya, F., Kim, H (2018), Asthma. Allergy Asthma Clin Immunol. (2)50. doi: 10.1186/s13223-018-0279-0. 
  2. Idrees M, FitzGerald J.M. (2015) Vocal cord dysfunction in bronchial asthma. A review article. J Asthma. 52(4):327-35. doi: 10.3109/02770903.2014.982288. 
  3. How is asthma commonly treated? [Internet] Asthma + Lung UK 2022. [cited 18 July 2022]. Available at:
  4. Bronchospasm- Adult [Internet] Winchester Hospital 2022. [cited 18 July 2022]. Available at: 
  5. Ray A, Kolls J.K (2017) Neutrophilic Inflammation in Asthma and Association with Disease Severity. Trends Immunol. 38(12). doi: 10.1016/
  6. Phlegm, mucus and asthma  [Internet] Asthma + Lung UK 2022. [cited 18 July 2022]. Available at: 
  7. Asthma- Asthma attacks [Internet] National Health Service 2022.  [cited 18 July 2022]. Available at:
This content is purely informational and isn’t medical guidance. It shouldn’t replace professional medical counsel. Always consult your physician regarding treatment risks and benefits. See our editorial standards for more details.

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Aarthi Narayan

Master of Science (M.S.), Biological science, University of Illinois Chicago

Scientist with 10+ years of strong industry, academic experience in Molecular biology, Tissue culture, Protein purification techniques. Mid-level experience in Diagnostics and start-ups. Excellent at completing large scale projects and experiments with minimal supervision in a timely and efficient manner.

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