is a disease that affects your lungs. It is one of the most common
long-term diseases of children, but adults can have asthma, too. Asthma
causes wheezing, breathlessness, chest tightness, and coughing at night
or early in the morning. If you have asthma, you have it all the time,
but you will have asthma attacks only when something bothers your lungs.
most cases, we don’t know what causes asthma, and we don’t know how to
cure it. We know that if someone in your family has asthma you are more
likely to have it.
How Can You Tell if You Have Asthma?
can be hard to tell if someone has asthma, especially in children under
age 5. Having a doctor check how well your lungs work and check for
allergies can help you find out if you have asthma.
During a checkup, the doctor will ask if you cough a lot, especially at
night, and whether your breathing problems are worse after physical
activity or at certain times of year. The doctor will also ask about
chest tightness, wheezing, and colds lasting more than 10 days. They
will ask whether anyone in your family has or has had asthma, allergies,
or other breathing problems, and they will ask questions about your
home. The doctor will also ask if you have missed school or work and
about any trouble you may have doing certain things.
will also do a breathing test, called spirometry, to find out how well
your lungs are working. The doctor will use a computer with a mouthpiece
to test how much air you can breathe out after taking a very deep
breath. The spirometer can measure airflow before and after you use
What Is an Asthma Attack?
An asthma attack may include coughing, chest tightness, wheezing, and
trouble breathing. The 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. During an asthma attack, the sides of the
airways in your lungs swell and the airways shrink. Less air gets in and
out of your lungs, and mucous that your body makes clogs up the airways
You can control your asthma by knowing the
warning signs of an asthma attack, staying away from things that cause
an attack, and following your doctor’s advice. When you control your
you won’t have symptoms such as wheezing or coughing,
you’ll sleep better,
you won’t miss work or school,
you can take part in all physical activities, and
you won’t have to go to the hospital.
What Causes an Asthma Attack?
asthma attack can happen when you are exposed to “asthma triggers.”
Your triggers can be very different from those of someone else with
asthma. Know your triggers and learn how to avoid them. Watch out for an
attack when you can’t avoid the triggers. Some of the most common
Tobacco smoke is unhealthy for everyone, especially people with asthma. If you have asthma and you smoke, quit smoking.
smoke” is smoke created by a smoker and breathed in by a second person.
Secondhand smoke can trigger an asthma attack. If you have asthma,
people should never smoke near you, in your home, in your car, or
wherever you may spend a lot of time.
mites are tiny bugs that are in almost every home. If you have asthma,
dust mites can trigger an asthma attack. To prevent attacks, use
mattress covers and pillowcase covers to make a barrier between dust
mites and yourself. Don’t use down-filled pillows, quilts, or
comforters. Remove stuffed animals and clutter from your bedroom. Wash
your bedding on the hottest water setting.
Outdoor Air Pollution
Outdoor air pollution can trigger an asthma attack. This pollution can
come from factories, automobiles, and other sources. Pay attention to
air quality forecasts on radio, television, and the Internet and check
your newspaper to plan your activities for when air pollution levels
will be low.
Cockroaches and their droppings can trigger an asthma attack. Get rid
of cockroaches in your home by removing as many water and food sources
as you can. Cockroaches are often found where food is eaten and crumbs
are left behind. At least every 2 to 3 days, vacuum or sweep areas that
might attract cockroaches. Use roach traps or gels to cut down on the
number of cockroaches in your home.
Furry pets can trigger an asthma attack. If you think a furry pet may
be causing attacks, you may want to find the pet another home. If you
can’t or don’t want to find a new home for the pet, keep it out of the
person with asthma’s bedroom.
Bathe pets every week and keep them
outside as much as you can. People with asthma are not allergic to their
pet’s fur, so trimming the pet’s fur will not help your asthma. If you
have a furry pet, vacuum often. If your floors have a hard surface, such
as wood or tile, damp mop them every week.
Breathing in mold can trigger an asthma attack. Get rid of mold in your
home to help control your attacks. Humidity, the amount of moisture in
the air, can make mold grow. An air conditioner or dehumidifier will
help you keep the humidity level low. Get a small tool called a
hygrometer to check humidity levels and keep them as low as you can—no
higher than 50%. Humidity levels change over the course of a day, so
check the humidity levels more than once a day. Fix water leaks, which
let mold grow behind walls and under floors.
Smoke From Burning Wood or Grass
Smoke from burning wood or other plants is made up of a mix of harmful
gases and small particles. Breathing in too much of this smoke can cause
an asthma attack. If you can, avoid burning wood in your home. If a
wildfire is causing poor air quality in your area pay attention to air
quality forecasts on radio, television, and the Internet and check your
newspaper to plan your activities for when air pollution levels will be
Infections linked to
influenza (flu), colds, and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) can
trigger an asthma attack. Sinus infections, allergies, breathing in some
chemicals, and acid reflux can also trigger attacks.
incense or candles, of any kind, can be a source of particulate matter,
which may trigger an asthma attack in some individuals.
exercise; some medicines; bad weather, such as thunderstorms or high
humidity; breathing in cold, dry air; and some foods, food additives,
and fragrances can also trigger an asthma attack.
Strong emotions can lead to very fast breathing, called hyperventilation, that can also cause an asthma attack.
How Is Asthma Treated?
your asthma and avoid an attack by taking your medicine exactly as your
doctor tells you and by staying away from things that can trigger an
Everyone with asthma does not take the same medicine.
Some medicines can be breathed in,
and some can be taken as a pill. Asthma medicines come in two
types—quick-relief and long-term control. Quick-relief medicines control
the symptoms of an asthma attack. If you need to use your quick-relief
medicines more and more, visit your doctor to see if you need a
different medicine. Long-term control medicines help you have fewer and
milder attacks, but they don’t help you while you are having an asthma
Asthma medicines can have side effects, but most side
effects are mild and soon go away. Ask your doctor about the side
effects of your medicines.
Remember – you can control your asthma.
With your healthcare provider’s help, make your own asthma action plan.
Decide who should have a copy of your plan and where he or she should
keep it. Take your long-term control medicine even when you don’t have