What is Asthma?Asthma is a chronic lung disease where the tissue and airways of the lungs become extremely sensitive to certain substances. When these substances are breathed in, the lungs become inflamed. The muscles around the airways tighten and squeeze the lungs, and passages within the lungs swell and tighten. The airways themselves produce mucus, which further clogs the tightened, swollen airways. A person having an asthma attack finds it very difficult to breathe, and a severe attack can even be fatal. Asthma affects people of all ages, but people with asthma are most often diagnosed as children. Symptoms can include wheezing, a tight feeling in the chest, shortness of breath, and coughing. Some people have mild symptoms all the time, and some people have no symptoms at all, but everyone with asthma is susceptible to occasional severe attacks or flare-ups of symptoms when they are exposed to triggers. Triggers vary widely but can include:
- Allergens (dust mites, pet fur, mold, pollen, grass)
- Irritants (smoke, pollution, dust, chemicals)
- Viral infections
- Physical activity, especially outdoors
- Certain medications or chemicals in foods (aspirin, sulfites)
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