What Is Asthma?

Asthma is a disease that affects a person’s breathing and may restrict the ability to get oxygen to the lungs. For people with asthma, the inside of the airways can swell or become irritated and inflamed.  Inflammation of the airways can result in wheezing and coughing. Asthma can't be cured, but it can be controlled.

Causes of Asthma

  • Exact cause - still unknown
  • Genetics - If other family members have asthma, development is more likely.
  • Early exposure - Exposure to tobacco smoke, infections and allergens at a young age increases the chance of developing asthma.

Symptoms of Asthma

  • Intermittent cough
  • Wheezing
  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest tightness
  • Severity and frequency differ

Triggers of Asthma

  • Exercise - may be the only cause for some people
  • Viral infections
  • Tobacco smoke - #1 preventable asthma trigger
  • Strong odors
  • Extreme temperature changes
  • Air pollution
  • Emotions - crying, laughing, stress
  • Animal dander - skin, hair, feathers 
  • Cockroaches
  • Dust mites - found in dust
  • Mold
  • Pollen

Removing/eliminating the trigger can drastically reduce asthma symptoms and severity.

Basic Asthma Management

  • Take prescribed medication.
  • Develop an asthma action plan with your physician, and follow it.
  • Avoid asthma triggers.
  • Get an annual influenza vaccination.
    • Flu Clinic Locator - Influenza or "the flu" is not merely the common cold, but a serious respiratory illness. Flu season can begin as early as October, and last well into springtime. The best way to reduce the effects of influenza is through annual vaccination.

Young girl using asthma inhaler

Good communication between parents/caregivers, physicians, school nurses, and teachers is essential in providing effective asthma management.
Last Revised: November 19, 2015