What is reactive airway disease?

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Reactive airway disease: Overview

Reactive airway disease is a breathing problem that appears as wheezing, a whistling noise in your airways. It may be caused by a viral or bacterial infection, allergies, tobacco smoke, or something else in the environment. When you are around these triggers, your body releases chemicals that make the airways get tight.

Reactive airway disease is a lot like asthma. Both can cause wheezing. But asthma is ongoing, while reactive airway disease may occur only now and then. Tests can be done to tell whether you have asthma. You may take the same medicines used to treat asthma. Good home care and follow-up care with your doctor can help you recover.

How can you care for yourself when you have reactive airway disease?

  • Take your medicines exactly as prescribed. Call your doctor if you think you are having a problem with your medicine.
  • Do not smoke or allow others to smoke around you. If you need help quitting, talk to your doctor about stop-smoking programs and medicines. These can increase your chances of quitting for good.
  • If you know what caused your wheezing (such as perfume or the odor of household chemicals), try to avoid it in the future.
  • Wash your hands several times a day, and consider using hand gels or wipes that contain alcohol. This can prevent colds and other infections.

Reactive airway disease: When to call

Call 911 anytime you think you may need emergency care. For example, call if:

  • You have severe trouble breathing.

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor if:

  • You cough up yellow, dark brown, or bloody mucus.
  • You have a fever.
  • Your wheezing gets worse.

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The content above contains general health information provided by Healthwise, Incorporated, and reviewed by its medical experts. This content should not replace the advice of your healthcare provider. Not all treatments or services described are offered as services by us. For recommended treatments, please consult your healthcare provider.