Asthma is a lung disease involving repeated breathing problems. The lungs in people with asthma are supersensitive to triggers they encounter in the environment, often including cat dander, dust mites, mold, pollen, smoke, pollution, cold air, and exercise. These triggers can cause asthma attacks, which include wheezing, coughing, and difficulty breathing.

Asthma triggers

What Causes Asthma?

Lungs during asthma attack

During an asthma attack, the airways in the lung narrow. In response to an environmental trigger, airways become inflamed or swollen and begin to produce mucus. The muscles around airways contract, further narrowing the openings and making it difficult to breathe. This narrowing may reverse naturally with time, or with treatment and medication.

Who's At Risk?

Asthma is a complex disease that is influenced by many genes and environmental factors. But it is safe to say that asthma often runs in families. If someone in your family has asthma, you may have inherited factors that make you more susceptible to this disease.

Asthma is the most common chronic disease (one that cannot be cured) affecting children and young adults. In the United States, one child out of every fifteen has some degree of asthma.

Reducing The Risk

There is not a whole lot you can do to reduce your risk of developing asthma. If you have asthma, seek medical advice to help treat and manage your symptoms. Your doctor can help identify your asthma triggers and prescribe medications that will both prevent and treat asthma attacks.

If you tend to develop asthma with exercise, there are a few things you can try to minimize negative effects.

  • Try to exercise indoors as much as possible.
  • Exercise at moderate to low intensity levels.
  • Warm up and cool down for adequate periods of time.
  • Breathe slowly and through your nose.
  • Use an inhalant (nebulizer) if prescribed by a physician.