Asthma is a common lung condition in the industrialized world that limits the ability to breathe and take in oxygen, our most basic survival need. The emotions of fear and panic can take over when asthma is present because we can’t live without air for more than a few minutes. It’s easy to understand why it is one of the most frightening diseases, both physically and emotionally.
The most significant feature of asthma is the narrowing of the trachea “windpipe” and bronchial passages because of some trigger. In asthma, the airways are over-responsive so things that may not cause breathing problems for most of us will cause the airways to constrict in asthmatics. When airways are constricted by an asthma attack, their delicate membrane linings become swollen and inflamed.
This may be caused by irritants from the environment like pollen, dust or even cold air. Or it could be from other triggers such as infections, exposure to irritants (allergic, chemical & physical), and exercise. Whatever the trigger, in all asthma attacks the airways become extremely irritated and overreact by going into spasm.
Secondhand smoke exposure is a risk factor for new asthma cases. Recent studies have suggested that in the children of smokers as well as children born to mothers who smoked during pregnancy, have abnormally narrowed airways which may cause asthma and other respiratory disorders. Almost two-thirds of all people with asthma experience their first symptoms – wheezing, shortness of breath, coughing, difficulty breathing and rapid heartbeat – by age five.
Children with wheezing, coughing, and trouble breathing at the same time should seek medical attention to rule out asthma, especially children who have had an upper respiratory infection. Also, a child who has frequent coughing, pneumonia or bronchitis should be evaluated for asthma.
Remember, Asthma is an inflammatory condition of the airways caused by allergens, irritants and respiratory infections. Triggered by many different stimuli that activate an over-reactive airway system. More than 50% of current asthma cases in the U.S. can be attributed to allergies. 30% of these are associated with cat allergies.
Not to Be Overlooked:
There is gathering evidence that environmental exposures early in life, including in the womb, may influence the development of asthma. This large study provides some evidence that increasing exposure to household chemicals during pregnancy may be linked to an increased risk of children wheezing.