What Is Asthma?

Nearly twenty million Americans suffer from asthma — a disease of the lungs where airways become blocked or narrowed, causing problems with breathing. There are actually two types of asthma — allergic, or extrinsic and non-allergic, or intrinsic.

Allergic asthma is triggered by an allergic reaction. More than half of the people who suffer from asthma have allergic asthma. Asthma attacks are triggered by inhaled allergens like dust mites, pet dander, pollen, or mold. A person suffering from an allergic asthma attack may cough or wheeze, feel short of breath, and experience a tight feeling in the chest. The airway obstruction and inflammation can be eased with medication.

Non-allergic asthma can be triggered by emotional state, exercise, cold or dry air, smoke, or other inhaled irritants. With extrinsic asthma, the immune system is not involved in the reaction. The symptoms of a non-allergic asthma attack are very similar to those of an allergic asthma attack — coughing or wheezing, shortness of breath, and chest tightness. Again, the inflammation and airway obstruction can be eased with asthma medication.

In severe cases, asthma can be fatal. If the airways are so inflamed that no air can get through, the person may die. Every day in America, an average of fourteen people die because of asthma. It is extremely important for asthmatics to keep their medications handy at all times!

There is no cure for asthma. The disease can be managed with prevention — avoiding triggers — and medication.

Here are some asthma facts from the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America.

Every day in America:

  • 40,000 people miss school or work because of asthma
  • 30,000 people have an asthma attack
  • 5,000 people visit the emergency room because of asthma
  • 1,000 people are admitted to the hospital because of asthma

According to the AAFA, asthma is the most common chronic condition among children — it affects at least one child out of every twenty. Nearly five million asthma sufferers are under the age of eighteen. The disease is more common among male children than female children, but if one parent carries the asthma gene, the chances are one in three that a child will develop asthma. If both parents have the gene, there is a seven in ten chance that a child will have asthma.

With proper treatment, many children can grow out of their problems — my brother grew out of his asthma, though not his allergies. I grew out of some of my allergies, and only occasionally had asthma issues. So there‚Äôs hope!