Asthma is a common disease that affects the airways of the lungs. Asthma causes the lining of the airways to be inflamed and swollen. This makes the airways more sensitive to allergens or other “triggers” such as smoke, stress, exercise, or cold air. These “triggers” do not affect most people, but can cause mild to severe symptoms in people with asthma by blocking airflow to the lungs. Asthma affects more than 22 million people in the United States, including approximately 7 million children. Asthma is more common in people who have family members who have allergies and asthma.
The range of symptoms of people suffering from asthma is wide. Wheezing, or a squeaky whistling sound while breathing, and shortness of breath are common symptoms in asthma. Some people have chest colds or bronchitis a few times a year. Others may only have a cough that wakes them up at night, when they exercise, or when exposed to animals. The presentation of asthma symptoms can vary but it is important to remember that all asthma is serious and can even be deadly. Asthma is a chronic disease, meaning it does not go away. If asthma is not treated properly, it can damage the lungs. The good news is that asthma can be controlled with a variety of medications. Allergists are physicians who have specialized training and experience to diagnose and treat asthma.