What Is Asthma

Asthma is a disease that affects the airways in the lungs. If you have asthma, the lining in your airways are inflamed and swollen all the time. This makes your airways more likely to be bothered by allergens or other things such as smoke, stress, exercise or cold air. These “triggers” don’t bother most people, but they can cause symptoms if you have asthma. They also can cause an “asthma attack,” making your airways swell even more and blocking airflow into your lungs.

Asthma is very common, affecting more than 22 million people in the United States, including almost 7 million children. No one knows for sure why some people have asthma and others don’t. People who have family members with allergies or asthma are more likely to have asthma.

Many people do not know they have asthma, especially if their symptoms aren’t severe. But any asthma symptom is serious and can become deadly.

The most common asthma symptoms are:
  • Coughing, especially at night, with exercise, or when laughing
  • Trouble breathing
  • A tight feeling in the chest
  • Wheezing – a squeaky or whistling sound

Sometimes a cough that won’t go away is the only symptom. Asthma symptoms often happen at night and in the morning, but they can happen any time. They get worse when you are around your asthma triggers.

Asthma treatment depends on your symptoms and how serious and frequent they are. One of the first steps in controlling your asthma is to avoid your asthma triggers, such as smoke, stress, exercise or cold air.

Frequently though, medications are necessary to both control and relieve patients’ symptoms. These types of medications include those that:

1. Provide for quick relief (e.g.-albuterol). Anyone with asthma should carry quick-relief medicine at all times in case of an asthma attack. These medicines help open the lungs’ airways. They also treat the noisy part of the disease—the coughing, wheezing and gasping for breath that can happen during an asthma attack.
2. Provide for long-term control (e.g.- inhaled corticosteroids or Singulair). Some people need this type of medicine to treat the quiet part of asthma—the inflammation that causes the airways in the lungs to become inflamed and swollen.

This information has been provided by the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology


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