Asthma is a lung disease that occurs when there is inflammation of the passages that transport air from the nose and mouth to the lungs.
An asthma attack is caused by irritation of those airways which reduces the amount of air that can get to the lungs. Asthma symptoms can be caused by allergens or irritants that are inhaled into the lungs, resulting in inflamed, narrowed, clogged, and constricted airways. Symptoms include wheezing, shortness of breath, difficulty breathing, coughing, and tightness in the chest. In severe cases, asthma can be deadly.
Nearly 25 million Americans suffer from asthma (over 8% of adults, over 9% of children); it is one of this country’s most common and costly diseases.
Asthma can limit a person’s quality of life. There is no cure for asthma, but asthma can be managed with proper prevention and treatment.
An asthma attack can be caused by “asthma triggers.” What triggers an attack in you might be different from the triggers of someone else with asthma. It is important to know what your asthma triggers are so that you can avoid them if possible and be prepared for an asthma attack if you are exposed to asthma triggers. Some of the most common triggers are:
- Animals (pet hair or dander)
- Dust, mold and pollen
- Changes in weather (most often cold weather)
- Air pollution
- Infections linked to influenza, colds, and other viruses
- Emotional stress
- Tobacco smoke
If you have asthma, it is recommended that you have a plan developed between you and your health care provider that gives specific instructions for early treatment of asthma symptoms. An asthma action plan is a written, individualized worksheet that shows you the steps to take to prevent your asthma from getting worse. It also provides guidance on when to call your healthcare provider or when to go to the emergency room right away.
- American Lung Association: information on lungs, lung disease, finding cures, healthy air, stop smoking
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: credible information along with data and statistics on asthma throughout the United States.
- The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA)
Sources: American Lung Association, Centers for Disease Control, South Dakota Work Well Toolkit