Pediatric Health Library

Asthma Overview

Asthma is a chronic lung disease that makes it difficult for air to pass through your lungs properly. It can start at any age and nearly 26 million Americans have asthma, 7 million of them being children. Unfortunately, there is no cure of asthma. However, with proper management, people living with asthma can live completely normal and healthy lives.

The Pathophysiology of Asthma

Airways in the lungs become sensitive to certain triggers, and when those triggers are present, airways create extra mucus and often spasm (get smaller) making it difficult to breathe. Common triggers include viral infections, environmental allergens (pollen, animals, etc.), exercise, environmental toxins (smoke, pollution, etc.). Asthma is caused by inheritance and environmental exposures acting together.

Symptoms of Asthma

Symptoms of asthma include:

  • Tight feeling in the chest
  • Shortness of breath
  • Coughing
  • Wheezing

These symptoms can be seen with allergies and viral illnesses and other conditions. If the symptoms are severe, persistent, or frequent you should schedule a visit to see us. Also if there is a pattern of frequent prolonged coughing with illness or other triggers, you should schedule an appointment to see us.

Asthma and Allergies and Atopic Dermatitis (Allergic Triad)

All three of these disorders are genetic and related. Any of these illnesses can run in families and are a risk factor for developing another of these illnesses. However, children who develop these conditions can outgrow them, or the diseases can wax and wane.

Diagnosis and Treatment of Asthma

You should schedule a visit to see us if you believe you or your child has asthma. We will take a history and do a physical exam, and sometimes do other testing such as breathing tests or allergy tests.

Patients with asthma need to take inhaled medications which we can prescribe and train you in how to use. It is important for patients with asthma to be seen for regular monitoring visits several times a year, when they are sick, and annually to get the flu vaccine.

The following are helpful websites with information on asthma:

www.aafa.org
www.allergyasthmanetwork.org