Asthma and the Environment
What is asthma?
Asthma is a serious lung disease. Symptoms of asthma include wheezing, shortness of breath, chest pain and tightness and coughing. Asthma can even cause death. About 20 million Americans have asthma. Asthma is the leading cause of long-term illness in children. In Tennessee, according to 2016 statistics, some 86,911 children aged 0-17 had asthma.
What happens during an asthma attack?
During an asthma attack, the airways get narrow, making it difficult to breathe. An asthma attack happens in your body's airways, which are the paths that carry air to your lungs. As the air moves through your lungs, the airways become smaller, like the branches of a tree are smaller than the tree trunk. The sides of the airways in your lungs swell and the airways shrink. Less air gets in and out of your lungs, and mucus that your body produces clogs up the airways even more. The attack may include coughing, chest tightness, wheezing, and trouble breathing. Some people call an asthma attack an episode. An asthma attack can occur when you are exposed to things in the environment, such as house dust mites and tobacco smoke. These are called asthma triggers.
What are the warning signs of asthma?
You can control your asthma by knowing the warning signs of an attack, staying away from things that trigger an attack, and following the advice of your doctor or other medical professional. Here are some signs that someone might have or develop asthma:
- coughing, especially at night,
- trouble breathing while playing or exercising,
- chest tightness or wheezing, or
- family history of asthma.
If someone may have asthma, it is important to visit a doctor for evaluation. Using a breathing test, your doctor can diagnosis asthma, set an asthma action plan, and prescribe helpful medicine. Controlling asthma is important to good health and quality of life. When you control your asthma:
- you will not have symptoms such as wheezing or coughing,
- you will sleep better,
- you will not miss work or school,
- you can take part in all physical activities,
- you will not have to go to the hospital, and
- you will feel better!
What are common asthma triggers?
Asthma may be triggered by allergens and irritants that are common in homes. People with asthma should avoid these common asthma triggers.
- Mold and moisture
- Pet hair and dander
- Mice and rats
- Dust mites
- Chemical irritants
- Tobacco smoke
- Particulate matter
- Nitrogen dioxide
- Extreme temperatures