Asthma attacks can be triggered by various factors, including allergens (such as pollen, dust mites, and pet dander), respiratory infections, exercise, cold air, stress, and irritants (such as tobacco smoke and air pollution). When a person with asthma is exposed to these triggers, their airways become inflamed and narrowed, leading to symptoms like wheezing, coughing, and difficulty breathing. It is important for individuals with asthma to identify their triggers and take steps to avoid them, as well as to work with their healthcare provider to develop an appropriate treatment plan to manage their condition and prevent asthma attacks.
Have you ever witnessed a sunrise or a rainbow or a masterpiece so stunning that it appeared to steal your breath away? Such an awe-inspiring feeling is often a result of excitement.
However, for millions of Americans, breathlessness is not just a mental sensation, but a physical one that they experience all too frequently, and it is far from enjoyable.
Asthma (pronounced az-muh) is a chronic lung condition that leads to inflammation and constriction of the airways. As a result, individuals may encounter chest tightness, shortness of breath, and coughing.
Asthma affects people of all ages, although it typically arises during childhood. In the United States, medical professionals estimate that over 25 million individuals have asthma, with approximately 7 million being children.
Your airways, also referred to as “breathing tubes” or “bronchial tubes,” transport oxygen from the air through the windpipe, or “trachea,” to your lungs. Breathing is something that many people take for granted, as it is an automatic process.
However, for individuals with asthma, breathing can sometimes be challenging due to their hypersensitive airways. The exact cause of why certain individuals have more sensitive airways than others is still unknown, but medical experts believe that asthma tends to run in families.
Therefore, if you have asthma, it is possible that you inherited it from your family’s genetic lineage. However, asthma is not like a common cold.
Asthma is not contagious and cannot be contracted through the air. You either have sensitive airways from birth, or you do not.
Individuals with asthma may be able to breathe perfectly fine most of the time. However, occasional asthma flare-ups, commonly referred to as “asthma attacks,” can occur and make breathing extremely difficult.
During an asthma attack, the airways become inflamed and narrower, creating the sensation of trying to breathe through a straw.
If an asthma attack is severe, individuals may need to use an inhaler to administer medication directly into their lungs. Those who experience frequent asthma attacks may also take daily medication to prevent attacks from happening.
Asthma attacks can be triggered by various factors such as allergens (e.g. dust mites, mold, and pollen), animal dander, perfume, chalk dust, cigarette smoke, cold air, air pollution, infections, or even physical exercise.
Individuals with asthma often spend a significant amount of time identifying their specific triggers. Once they determine what triggers their asthma, they can develop strategies to avoid these triggers and breathe more easily in the meantime.
Unfortunately, asthma cannot be cured. However, many children notice that their asthma improves or disappears over time. Some doctors believe this is due to the natural expansion of their airways as they grow.
Even for those who continue to struggle with asthma, modern medicines and treatments enable them to effectively manage the condition, allowing them to live normal, active lives. With the guidance of a doctor and an asthma management plan, it is possible to breathe comfortably most of the time!
Try It Out
Are you ready to take a deep breath and learn even more about asthma? Make sure to engage in the following activities with a friend or family member:
- Living with asthma can be difficult and unpleasant. It can be hard for people who don’t have asthma to understand what it feels like. Some people with asthma describe it as trying to breathe through a straw. To get a sense of what it’s like to have asthma, you can try breathing through a straw for a few minutes. This might give you an idea of the challenges that people with asthma face.
- If you or someone you know has asthma, it’s important to know what to do in case of an asthma flare-up. You can also help them prepare for the future by sharing an Asthma Action Plan that can be customized to their specific needs.
- Understanding the things that can trigger asthma can help you or your friends avoid flare-ups. If you want to learn more about the different types of asthma triggers, you can check out the Asthma Triggers Funbook featuring Dusty, the Asthma Goldfish!
1. What is an asthma attack?
An asthma attack refers to a sudden worsening of asthma symptoms, such as coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath, and chest tightness. It occurs when the airways in the lungs become inflamed, narrow, and produce excess mucus, making it difficult to breathe properly.
2. What causes asthma attacks?
Asthma attacks are triggered by various factors, including allergies to dust mites, pollen, pet dander, or mold. Other triggers include respiratory infections like the common cold, exposure to irritants like smoke or strong odors, physical activity, stress, and changes in weather conditions.
3. How do allergens contribute to asthma attacks?
Allergens, such as dust mites, pollen, and pet dander, can cause an allergic reaction in individuals with asthma. When these allergens are inhaled, they can trigger an immune response, leading to inflammation and narrowing of the airways, resulting in an asthma attack.
4. Can stress or emotions trigger asthma attacks?
Yes, stress and strong emotions can contribute to asthma attacks. When a person experiences stress or intense emotions, their body releases stress hormones, which can lead to inflammation and constriction of the airways, making it harder to breathe. Additionally, stress can weaken the immune system, making individuals more susceptible to respiratory infections that can trigger asthma attacks.
5. How can I prevent asthma attacks?
To prevent asthma attacks, it is important to identify and avoid triggers that may worsen your symptoms. This includes staying away from allergens, quitting smoking, practicing good hygiene to reduce the risk of respiratory infections, managing stress through relaxation techniques, and taking prescribed medications as directed by your healthcare provider. Regular check-ups and following an asthma action plan can also help in preventing asthma attacks.