How does asthma affect your airways?

Do you or your child have asthma? Find out what is asthma and what causes it. Discover the signs and symptoms of asthma and when to seek treatment.

Asthma is a lung disorder which makes it very much difficult for a person to breathe. Many people have asthma; in the USA it’s estimated that 8% of adults and 7% of children suffer from the condition.

There’s no simple explanation for what causes asthma. Nobody knows why some people suffer from asthma, and others not. Air pollution certainly affects our respiratory health, resulting a number of different systems and organs. But not everyone who lives in a polluted urban environment will get asthma.

Trethowans
Trethowans

Doctors around the world think that asthma is a mixture of environmental factors and genes. So if a parent or close relative has asthma, there is a chance that a child will have it. (it’s believed to be around half due to genetic susceptibility and roughly half due to environmental factors.)

People with a BMI of 30 or higher have a much greater risk of having asthma than those with a lower BMI. The good news is that asthma is not contagious, so you can’t ‘catch it’ from someone close to you.

Signs and symptoms of asthma 

A person with asthma attack can have symptoms such as:

  • Wheezing (this can sound like whistling when breathing)
  • Breathlessness
  • A tight chest (it can feel like you have a band tightening around it)
  • Coughing
  • Trouble sleeping due to breathing problems

Some asthma patients do not experience any symptoms of asthma for many years. But others may have asthma attacks on a daily basis. Some people only experience asthma after doing exercise or if they catch a cough or cold.

The effects of asthma in your airways

Sometimes doctor call asthma a chronic respiratory disease. The three major signs of asthma are:

  1. A blockage in the airways – When a person breathes, the muscles of the lungs around the airways become relaxed and the air can move freely through them. But if you suffer from asthma then the muscles of the airways tighten up and it becomes very difficult for you to breathe freely.
  2. Inflammation – Asthma can cause swollen red bronchial tubes in your lungs. This can cause severe damage to the lungs.
  3. Irritability – People who suffer from asthma always can have sensitive airways and this causes them to have trouble in breathing after they are in contact with triggers.

Mild asthma attacks are common. When it happens, the asthma attack causes the muscles around your airways to tighten up. Some other symptoms of an asthma attack are:

  • Rapid breathing.
  • Non stop coughing.
  • Chest pain.
  • Difficulty talking.
  • Pale, sweaty face.
  • Tightened chest muscles.
  • A severe type of wheezing while breathing in and out.

About an asthma attack

During an asthma attack, symptoms needs to be treated quickly before the condition gets worse. If someone doesn’t get proper treatment, they can become unable to speak, and you may notice they have bluish lips. This change of colour of lips is known as cyanosis.

During an asthma attack your airways start to tighten up, the linings of your airways begin swelling up and the cells in the lining of your airways make a thicker mucus than normal. This production of mucus in the airways causes a severe response, such as as difficulty in breathing, coughing and wheezing.

When to see a doctor about your asthma

If you are worried you or your child have asthma it’s important to see a doctor for diagnosis and treatment. You should also go if the condition or health of an asthma patient gets worse, with serious symptoms like:

  • Very fast breathing.
  • Pale or blue face and lips.
  • Difficulty in breathing, talking and walking.
  • Other symptoms which don’t improve after taking the prescribed asthma medication.

Classification of asthma

Asthma is known as a long term disorder which effects the lungs of the people with the condition. If someone is having an asthma attack then they should follow the instructions of the “Red Zone”. 

It is considered to be mild asthma if a person is suffering with mild symptoms less than twice a week, with mild asthma attacks. Mild, persistent asthma’s symptoms can occur from three to six times in a week. Asthma attacks can sometimes effect your daily life activities.

People suffering from a more severe, persistent asthma with symptoms both day and night should seek advice for their doctors and undertake some daily activities under control.

Asthma triggers

A person who is suffering from asthma will find that their airways can react to the environment around them. These are known as ‘asthma triggers’. Some common asthma triggers include:

  • Viral infections like flu, cough and cold.
  • Irritants like strong odors from perfumes or disinfectants.
  • Air pollution.
  • Tobacco Smoking.
  • Medicine such as aspirin also triggers asthma.

A diagnosis of asthma is usually made by a pulmonologist or by a specialist in allergy and immunology. Some first aids you can use for asthma patients to keep asthma attacks under control are:

  • Stay away from asthma triggers.
  • Regular exercise.
  • Staying at a healthy weight.
  • Use your inhaler and consume your asthma medications every day.

Asthma attacks can start at any age. In children, symptoms of asthma can vary from day to day, and include coughing, shallow breathing, weakness and tight neck and chest muscles. An asthma attack causes the airways to become narrow and it becomes very much difficult for a person to breathe.