Asthma Basics

Asthma is a disease of the breathing tubes that can be controlled but not cured. Children and adults with asthma have sensitive breathing tubes that overreact or become "twitchy" when exposed to things called triggers.

If your asthma is not controlled, you may suffer from periodic asthma attacks when muscles around the breathing tubes squeeze hard. This keeps air from moving in and out of the lungs easily. You may feel tightness in your chest and find it hard to breath. Using a Quick-Relief (AS NEEDED) medicine makes the breathing tubes relax and breathing becomes much easier.

People who have asthma also have swelling of the inside of the breathing tubes that can make them narrow and fill with mucous. This is caused by inflammation, which is a major part of controlling your asthma. Quick-Relief (AS NEEDED) medicines like Albuterol only relax the breathing tube muscles but don’t change the swelling on the inside. Controller (EVERYDAY) medicines treat the swelling from inflammation and are the most important medicines in asthma. Most controller medicines must be taken everyday to work well.

Asthma attack symptoms can include:

  • Trouble breathing
  • Shortness of breath
  • Coughing a lot
  • Chest tightness
  • Wheezing
  • Waking up with a cough
  • Waking up with breathing trouble
  • Trouble exercising

This page was last updated: March 7, 2013

         
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