Asthma Explained ...
Asthma is a condition that affects the airway passage and
makes it difficult to breathe.
Susan works night shifts.
"When I finish work, it's about 4am in the morning
and it's really cold. When I leave the hospital and suddenly hit the cold
air, I feel as if I just can't breathe. My chest clamps up so much that it
hurts. Then, when I get in the car and put the heater on, it's fine again."
What Susan is describing is an asthma attack
(technically called bronchospasm, the key event in asthma). During an asthma
attack the muscles tighten around the airway tubes, restricting air in and
out of the lungs. Mucus often accumulates as well. An attack can last
several minutes to several days.
During As Asthma Attack
People with asthma have sensitive muscles around
their air way passage. When something irritates these bands of muscle - they
clamp up and the air passage is narrowed. This stops air from
leaving the lungs at the normal speed, which means the lungs are still
half-full when it's time for the next in-breath. Taking more air into
half-full lungs produces pain and tightness in the chest, as the lungs
become over-inflated. This can be alarming, because it can seem like pain
from the heart, but it is just the rib joints and chest muscles hurting as
they become stretched.
At the same time, less oxygen reaches the bloodstream because
there is so much stale air in the lungs, so the asthmatic also feels
breathless. Meanwhile, the air being forced through the narrowed airways
makes a whistling sound called wheezing. See:
what are the symptoms of asthma?
Triggers Of Asthma Attack
Any of the following can cause the muscles to
* Sudden exposure to cold air
* Cigarette smoke
* Respiratory infections (including colds)
* Dust mites, mold, pollen and animal dander (the
stuff that animals shed, like skin and hair)
* Strenuous exercise
* Sulfites in food - often found in dried foods,
wine, marachino cherries, beer and potatoes
* Only rarely is asthma triggered by stress, although
for many years this was considered a primary trigger.
What triggers an asthma attack? Top 10
Can It Kill You?
Yes it can kill you - if not managed properly.
Asthma results in 2 million emergency room visits every year in the United
States. Women are nearly 3 times more likely than men to be hospitalized for
asthma and to die of an attack (due to oxygen restriction). In 2007 3,262
adults and 185 children died from asthma attacks in the U.S. However, by
avoiding the triggers and using appropriate medication, most people with
asthma live active, healthy lives.
Who Is Likely To Develop Asthma?
Asthma in many cases seems to be inherited - it
runs in families. It is not necessarily a lifelong condition, it can appear
at any time in your life. For example, it's not uncommon for a woman to
develop asthma in her 40s or even 50s, particularly if she suffers
from allergies. Read more about what causes
Allergy Related Questions
When is a cough asthma?
When coughing is chronic ...
system - Awesome page explaining this system in the body!
What is the treatment for asthma? Drugs
What is the best exercise for asthma?
Swimming, walking, yoga and more.
How is asthma diagnosed? Testing for the
When is asthma not asthma? Other things that
can mimic symptoms.
What is an asthma diet? Anti-asthma foods.
Chest conditions - A to Z of what can
go wrong in the chest area!
• Got another question? See: Allergy Questions
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