Asthma is a very common lung condition that affects people of all ages. It usually begins in childhood and some may develop it during adulthood. It is a chronic condition caused by the swelling of the lung airways. The airways get a little too sensitive and reacts to triggers.

Who Are at Risk of Asthma?

(1) Having a pre-existing atopic condition such as eczema and allergic rhinitis. Studies have described this as ‘atopic march’ where there is a natural progression of allergic diseases that begins in early life. Usually the typical sequence of atopic march is eczema in infants and allergic rhinitis and eventually asthma in children.

(2) Having had bronchiolitis, a common childhood infection in the past. Children under one year old hospitalized with bronchiolitis are at a prominently increased risk for both having repeated wheezing and childhood asthma.

(3) Exposure to tobacco smoke. Children who breathe second-hand smoke can have more frequent and more severe asthma attacks. People with asthma who smoke or are exposed to second-hand smoke have a higher risk for asthma attacks because their airways are overly sensitive. Second-hand smoke is more harmful to non-smokers because their bodies are not as used to smoke exposure, as smoker’s bodies are.

The Triggers

The specific cause of asthma is unknown. However, there are a number of triggers that will cause the airways to become inflamed after exposure the trigger as below:

(1) Respiratory infections

Common cold, flu or pneumonia may cause airway inflammation that will narrow the airways. These changes may trigger an asthma attack.

(2) Allergies such as to pollen, dust mites and animal fur

It is common for people who have allergies to have asthma as too.  This is because the same trigger that causes allergic symptoms will also cause asthma symptoms.

(3) Smoke, chemical fumes and pollution

If a person is constantly exposed to sensitive substances such as chemical fumes at work and triggers an asthma attack, this is known as occupational asthma.

(4) Emotions such as stress or laughter

Strong emotions such as fear, excitement or anger can affect the way a person breathe. The increased breathing may trigger asthma symptoms in certain individuals. The same happens when someone laughs or cries a lot because the cold, dry air reaches the airways which react with asthma symptoms, such as uncontrollable coughing and a tight chest.

(5) Exercise

This is called exercise-induced asthma. It happens in individuals with more sensitivity to low temperatures and dry air. In the nose, air is warmed and humidified by the hairs in the nose. However, the increased in demand of air during exercise makes people start to breathe through the mouth where more cold air passes through and reaches the lower airways triggering asthma.

(6) Weather

Sudden changes in temperature and humidity may also trigger asthma is certain individuals.

Symptoms of Asthma

Asthma symptoms that are very important to be identified are:

(1) Chest tightness or shortness of breath.

This affects an individual’s ability to speak a full sentence.

(2) Wheezing

It is a high-pitched whistling sound made during breathing and is clear on exhalation. It happens when the airways are narrowed.

(3) A persistent cough, nocturnal coughing or after exercise

When someone gets exposed to allergens such as pollen or dust mites or even breathing in cold air, coughing may happen. Coughing may also follow an upper respiratory infection.

Asthma can normally be kept under control and once the triggers are identified, it can be prevented. It is highly-important to consult a doctor if the symptoms get worse as asthma is still a serious condition that can cause a number of problems.

Read asthma answers by DoctorOnCall to know more about this condition.