What is asthma?

Asthma is a chronic disease affecting the lungs, causing airways to inflame. The narrowing of airways reduces the flow of air into and out of the lungs, making it harder to breathe. It is a major noncommunicable disease characterized by recurrent attacks of breathlessness and wheezing. Severity and frequency vary from person to person. If you have asthma, you have it all the time, but you will have asthma attacks only when something bothers your lungs. Severe asthma attacks can lead to asthma-related hospitalizations because these attacks can be serious and even life-threatening. Asthma can be controlled by taking medicine and avoiding the triggers that can cause an attack. 
Asthma is classified into four general categories:
  • Mild intermittent. Mild symptoms up to two days a week and up to two nights a month
  • Mild persistent. Symptoms more than twice a week, but no more than once in a single day.
  • Moderate persistent. Symptoms once a day and more than one night a week
  • Severe persistent. Symptoms throughout the day on most days and frequently at night
Asthma attacks may include coughing, chest tightness, wheezing, and trouble breathing. Attacks happen in the body’s airways, as the air moves through lungs, the airways become smaller. Less air gets in and out of the lungs due to: 
  • Lining of airways become swollen and inflamed
  • Muscles around the airways tighten
  • More mucus is produced, leading to mucus plugs
Risk factors
  • Having a family history with asthma
  • Having another allergic condition
  • Being overweight
  • Smoking or exposure to secondhand smoke
  • Exposure to exhaust fumes or other types of pollution
  • Cold, harsh air
  • Extreme emotional arousal such as anger or fear
  • Physical exercise
Diagnosis results from a physical exam, your signs and symptoms, and other health problems. You may be given lung (pulmonary) function tests to determine how much air moves in and out as you breathe. These tests include: 
  • Spirometry. This test estimates the narrowing of your bronchial tubes by checking how much air you can exhale after a deep breath and how fast you can breathe out.
  • Peak flow. A peak flow meter is a simple device that measures how hard you can breathe out. 
Other tests include:
  • Methacholine challenge
  • Nitric oxide test
  • Imaging tests
  • Allergy testing
  • Sputum eosinophils
  • Provocative testing for exercise and cold-induced asthma
Asthma can be controlled by medication. Avoiding asthma triggers can also reduce the severity of asthma. Short-term medications are used to relieve symptoms. Medications such as long-term inhaled steroids are needed to control the progression of severe asthma.
  • An estimated 300 million people worldwide suffer from asthma
  • Approximately 250,000 people die prematurely each year from asthma
  • 7.6% of adults currently have asthma
  • 8.4% of children currently have asthma
inhaler kid asthma hub

  • "Asthma." Mayo Clinic. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 30 Aug. 2016. Web. 20 Apr. 2017.
  • "Asthma." Asthma | Johns Hopkins Medicine Health Library. Johns Hopkins Medicine Health Library, n.d. Web. 20 Apr. 2017.
  • "FDA Approves Cinqair to Treat Severe Asthma." Press Announcements - FDA Approves Cinqair to Treat Severe Asthma. US Food and Drug Administration, 23 Mar. 2016. Web. 20 Apr. 2017.
  • "Learn How to Control Asthma." CDC - Asthma - About Asthma. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 27 Jan. 2017. Web. 20 Apr. 2017.
  • "Asthma." WHO | Asthma. World Health Organization, Nov. 2013. Web. 20 Apr. 2017.
  • "Asthma Statistics." Asthma Statistics | AAAAI. American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology, n.d. Web. 20 Apr. 2017.


If you or someone you know is currently dealing with asthma and/or allergies, visit Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA) where you can learn more about these conditions and how to better control them. Knowing how to prevent future allergy or asthma attacks can improve or even save your life.
asthma and allergy awareness month



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