What is Asthma ?
Doctors are not exactly certain how you get asthma. But they do know that once you have it, your lungs react to things that can start an asthma attack.

For instance, when you have asthma, you might get an asthma attack when you have a cold (or some other kind of respiratory infection). Or, you might get an attack when you breathe something that bothers your lungs (such as cigarette smoke, dust or feathers).

When this happens, three changes take place in your lungs:
  • Cells in your air tubes make more mucus than normal. This mucus is very thick and sticky. It tends to clog up the tubes.
  • The air tubes tend to swell, just as skin swells when you get a scrape.
  • The muscles in your air tubes tighten.
These changes cause the air tubes to narrow. This makes it hard to breathe. Asthma attacks may start suddenly. Or they may take a long time, even days, to develop. Attack scan be severe, moderate or mild.

  • "I cough a lot while I exercise or even when I rest after exercising."
  • "I have shortness of breath."
  • "I make a wheezing sound when I breathe."
  • "I feel a tightness in my chest."


Usually symptoms get started or "triggered" by something that bothers your lungs. These things are called asthma triggers.

There are many kinds of triggers. They can range from viruses (such as colds) to allergies, to gases and particles in the air.

Given this range, you may find it hard to figure out what starts your asthma attacks. You may even think your attacks "just happen." But this is generally not true. Something usually triggers an attack.

There are other asthma triggers that you can get rid of or avoid. Good examples of these triggers are cold air, dust, feathers or molds.


Many particles of different types and sizes are carried in the air we breathe. Some large particles may settle on the walls and furniture in your home. Other large particles are removed by your nose and mouth when you inhale. Smaller particles are breathed deep into the lungs.

Asthma may be triggered by both the large and small particles. Some air particles come from the indoors. Others are carried in the outdoor air.

Outdoor particles come into your home through windows, doors, and heating systems. For most people, the indoor air particles cause no problems. But people with allergic symptoms including asthma can have problems, right in their own home.

The air at home is easier to control. Some people with asthma and allergies notice that their symptoms get worse at night. Trigger controls in the bedroom or wherever you sleep need the most care.

Source: American Lung Association: Asthma Information 8/2000

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