Asthma is a chronic condition causing airways to inflame, making it difficult to breathe. People who suffer from asthma may have a whistle-like wheeze, a nagging cough, or tightening in the chest.

Health care providers treating patients with asthma will ask about "triggers," which is something that causes asthma to flare up. Common asthma triggers are mold, dust mites, smoke, pet dander, and cold air. Avoiding an asthma attack starts with knowing what causes it, and taking steps to avoid contact with those triggers.

If you suspect you or a loved one has asthma, make an appointment at your primary care clinic. To help with the diagnosis, you may want to keep a journal for a week. Note when you had difficulty breathing, where you were, and what was around you.

Seasonal Allergies

Allergies are similar to asthma in that something in the environment causes a reaction. Seasonal allergies include common "hay fever," which is a sensitivity to pollen, grasses, trees, and other plants.

Besides making you miserable, hay fever can affect your performance at work, school, or athletics. Your pharmacist can help you select an over-the-counter medication, and if it doesn’t relieve your symptoms, contact your doctor.