Asthma is a chronic disease affecting the bronchial tubes—the airways going to and from the lungs which allow air to flow in and out. Having asthma means the airways are inflamed and swollen and the muscles around the airways can tighten when something triggers your symptoms. Symptoms can include coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath and/or chest tightness.
Asthma can be Child-Onset or Adult-Onset, and can range from extremely mild to life-threatening and the symptoms can change as you get older. Work, exercise, environment, weather and even time of day can come into play in the severity of asthma symptoms. There is no definite cure for asthma, however, there are treatment options to effectively manage symptoms. Approximately 300 million people around the world suffer from asthma. Asthma is different for every person and knowing what classification of asthma you have and further educating yourself about the condition can greatly increase your quality of life and help you to manage certain avoidable and unavoidable triggers.
Childhood asthma, or pediatric asthma, is very hard to diagnose but accounts for the highest number of serious chronic disease in infants and children. While some of the symptoms remain comparable to adult asthma, some children may only suffer symptoms when doing physical activity which is referred to as exercise-induced bronchospasm. Children with a family history of asthma or allergies, have frequent respiratory infections, suffer from second-hand smoke in their environment or have a low birth weight are much more susceptible to developing pediatric asthma. For some asthma sufferers, exercise can increase symptoms, so physical activity may be difficult or cause breathing to be labored. This is called exercise-induced asthma or exercise-induced bronchoconstriction. This type of asthma, like many others, is able to be controlled with quick-relief medication frequently used in combination with long-term controller medications. In more intense and rare instances, a person may suffer from acute severe asthma which is a much more severe type of asthma that does not generally respond to average courses of treatment. Another form of asthma is called allergic asthma, which usually affects those who have a history of allergies in their family. Frequently, those who suffer from allergies will develop asthma, or vice versa; it is rare to see one without the other. Those who suffer from allergic asthma usually have reactions as a result of inhaled allergens that are typically harmless substances, but may cause uncomfortable swelling of the lungs.
Although specific allergens may be responsible for triggering the individual’s symptoms, the actual cause of allergic asthma is the IgE antibody, or Immunoglobulin. According to AAAAI, the mediators that are released as a result of the chemicals is what causes the uncomfortable asthma symptoms. IgE is nothing to worry about in most cases as it is a natural substance your body creates. However, those who suffer from allergic asthma tend to have higher than normal levels of this antibody due to continued exposure to certain environmental triggers: animal dander, cockroaches, dust mites and certain kinds of mold. Because these people are continually around these triggers, their body creates more of these antibodies to fight them, which stimulates the immune system and eventually causing the swelling of the airways. Occupational asthma, a form of non-allergic asthma, is a job-related condition where the asthma sufferer has developed the illness as the result of inhaling harmful substances such as gas, dust or fumes. Frequent triggers include hydrochloric acid, ammonia and sulfur dioxide. When a person inhales high doses of these irritants, it can cause wheezing or other uncomfortable asthma-like symptoms. This type of asthma can occur in both people who have never suffered asthma symptoms as well as those who have pre-existing asthma that is worsened by the condition of their workplace—called work-exacerbated asthma.
It is important to realize that all types of asthma have their own specific triggers, diagnoses, treatments, symptoms and recommended treatment plans to better your health. If you have any concerns about your health or any of the above-mentioned symptoms, please consult your physician.