What is Asthma?

Asthma is a chronic disease of the airways that makes breathing difficult. With Asthma, there is inflammation of the air passages that results in a temporary narrowing of the airways that carry oxygen to the lungs.If it is severe, asthma can result in decreased breathing activity and inability to talk.

Asthma may occur at any age, although it’s more common in people under age 40.People who have a family history of asthma have an increased risk of developing the disease.Asthma is increasingly prevalent among children.As of 2013, an estimated 7.1 million children under age 18 (9.5%) have been diagnosed with the disease.

What causes Asthma?

People with asthma have very sensitive airways that react to many different things in the environment called “asthma triggers.” Contact with these triggers cause asthma symptoms to start or worsen. The following are common triggers for asthma:

Infections such as sinusitis, colds, and flu
Allergens such as pollens, mold spores, pet dander, and dust mites.
Irritants such as strong odors from perfumes or cleaning solutions, and air pollution.
Tobacco smoke.
Exercise (known as exercise-induced asthma).
Weather; changes in temperature and/or humidity, cold air.
Strong emotions such as anxiety, laughter or crying, stress.
Medications, such as aspirin-sensitive asthma.


Asthma symptoms can vary from episode to episode in the same child. Signs and symptoms of asthma to look for include:

Frequent coughing spells during day or nighttime, while laughing.
The tightening of bands of muscle surrounding the airways where air cannot move freely.
Red and swollen bronchial tubes whose inflammation is thought to contribute greatly to the long-term damage to the lungs.
Less energy during play, or pausing to catch breath during play.
Rapid or shallow breathing.
Complaint of chest tightness or chest “hurting”.
Whistling sound when breathing in or out. This whistling sound is called wheezing.
Tending to overreact and narrow due to the slightest triggers such as pollen, animal dander, dust, or fumes.
Seesaw motions in the chest from labored breathing. These motions are called retractions.
Shortness of breath, loss of breath.
Feelings of weakness or tiredness.
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