What Is Asthma?
Asthma is a disease that affects a person’s breathing and can reduce the body’s ability to get oxygen to the lungs. With asthma, the inner lining of the airways can swell or become irritated and inflamed. When this happens, the person may cough or wheeze. There isn’t a cure for asthma, but it can be managed.
For children with asthma, communication is especially important to manage the disease. Parents or caregivers, doctors, school nurses, and teachers should all follow the steps outlined in a child’s asthma action plan to manage their asthma symptoms, triggers, and attacks.
Asthma risk factors
Although the exact cause of asthma is unknown, there are factors that can increase a person’s risk of developing the condition. These include:
- Genetics—If someone in your family has asthma or allergies, your risk of developing asthma increases.
- Early exposure—If you’re exposed to tobacco smoke, certain allergens, or viral infections at a young age, you’re more likely to develop asthma.
Although their severity and frequency vary, here are a few common asthma symptoms:
- Chest tightness
- Intermittent cough
- Shortness of breath
There are several things that can cause an asthma attack. Some of the most common triggers include:
- Outdoor air pollution (ground-level ozone, tiny particles, toxic air emissions)
- Chemicals in scented or cleaning products
- Dust mites
- Pests (cockroaches, mice)
- Pets (skin, hair, saliva, feathers)
- Pollen (grasses, trees, flowers)
- Viral infections (colds, flu, COVID-19)
- Strong emotions (crying, laughing, stress)
- Strong odors
- Tobacco smoke, which is the No. 1 preventable trigger of asthma
- Weather (cold or dry air, high humidity, extreme temperature changes)
Reducing or getting rid of asthma triggers can prevent asthma symptoms and decrease their severity.
Basic asthma management
- Avoid asthma triggers.
- Develop an asthma action plan with your doctor or health-care provider, and follow it every day.
- Take asthma medicine as prescribed.
- Get an annual flu vaccine.
- Use the American Lung Association’s flu shot locator to find a vaccine near you.
- Get a COVID-19 vaccine and boosters as recommended.
- Go to Vaccine.gov from the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) to find a vaccine near you.
Asthma care at school
Learn why it is important to have an asthma action plan for your child at school.