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Other Specific Conditions > Asthma > What is Asthma?

What is Asthma?

Asthma is a chronic lung disease.  For people who have asthma, certain “triggers” cause the airways and lungs to become inflamed. The airways through which a person breathes begin to narrow and excess mucus forms in them.  This means that very little air can pass through the airways into the lungs and it becomes difficult to breathe.  Wheezing, breathlessness, chest tightness and coughing occur.  This is what is called an “asthma attack” or an “asthma episode.”   Attacks can be mild, or they can become very severe, serious and life threatening.


Common “triggers” of asthma attacks are:

  • Outdoor Air Pollution
  • Tobacco smoke (including secondhand smoke)
  • Dust mites
  • Cockroaches
  • Pets
  • Mold and Mildew  
  • Strenuous physical activity
  • Extreme weather conditions such as high humidity and cold
  • Strong emotions
  • Viruses, certain drugs, some foods and food additives

Every person with asthma will react differently to triggers.  If you have asthma, knowing the triggers that cause your asthma attacks, and avoiding them, is very important.

The goal for people with asthma is to learn how to manage their asthma.  If you learn how to control your asthma, you can lead a healthy and active life.

Asthma is a disease that affects all ages, children and adults.