asthma is a lung disease that inflamesand narrows your airways. normally, as you inhale air moves freely through your trachea, or windpipe then through large tubes called bronchi smaller tubes called bronchioles and finally into tiny sacs called alveoli. small blood vessels, called capillaries, surround your alveoli. oxygen from the air you breathe passes into your capillaries then carbon dioxide from your body passes out of your capillaries into your alveoli so that your lungs can get rid of it when you exhale.
your bronchioles expand when the air is warm, moist, and free of irritants and allergy causing substances called allergens. when air is cold or dry, or contains irritants or allergens, your bronchioles contract. if you have asthma, your airways are frequently inflamed and swollen. certain substances can cause you areinflamed airways to overreact even more, resulting in an asthma attack. triggers of asthma attacks are slightly different for everyone, but usually include: outdoor irritants and allergens, such as pollen
smoke pollution and cold weather indoor irritants and allergens, such as mold pet dander dust mites and cockroach droppings food allergens, such as
fish shellfish eggs peanuts and soy and conditions, such as respiratory infections stress strong emotions
and exercise. the symptoms of an asthma attack include: coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath, and tightness in your chest. during an asthma attack (also known as a bronchospasm) the muscles around your airways tighten and the airway wall becomes more swollen. your airways also produce thick mucus that narrows them even more making it hard for you to breathe. if you have asthma, your doctor may prescribe medications to reduce:
inflammation in your airways, constriction of the muscles surrounding your airways, or mucous secretion in your airways. during an asthma attack you may need to use a short-acting rescue medication called a bronchodilator. this medication causes your airway muscles to relax quickly and provide symptom relief within minutes. since there is no cure for asthma, thegoal is to prevent you from having asthma attacks by using long-acting, anti-inflammatory control medications. if you take them every day, they will reduce the inflammation of your airways making them less sensitive to triggers of asthma attacks.