Asthma is a disease that affects the lungs. It causes wheezing, breathlessness, chest tightness, and coughing at night or early in the morning. Asthma attacks happen when something bothers or irritates the lungs.
Causes of asthma are not known, but it is thought to be caused by genetics, environmental and occupational factors.
For example, if someone within the immediate family has asthma, other members are likely to have it too. Being exposed to things in the environment, like mould or dampness, dust mites, and second-hand tobacco smoke have also been linked to the development of asthma. Air pollution and viral lung infection may also lead to asthma.
There is also occupational asthma, which happens when someone who never had asthma develops it because he or she is exposed to something at work.
An asthma attack may include coughing, chest tightness, wheezing, and trouble breathing. The attack happens in the body’s airways, which are the paths that carry air to your lungs. During an asthma attack, the sides of the airways in the lungs swell and the airways shrink, allowing less air in and out of the lungs.
Managing or Controlling Asthma
A person can control or manage their asthma by knowing the warning signs of an asthma attack, staying away from things that cause the attack, and following the doctor’s advice.
Asthma attack triggers may differ from person to person. But some of the triggers may include:
- Cigarette smoke, including second-hand smoke
- Dust mites
- Outdoor air pollution
- Cockroach droppings
- Furry pets
- Smoke From burning wood or grass
Other triggers include:
- Infections linked to flu, colds, and other respiratory diseases.
- Sinus infections, allergies, breathing in some chemicals, and acid reflux.
- Physical 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.
Source: Centre for Disease Management and Prevention (CDC)