Asthma affects individuals of all ages, but the respiratory disease often begins in early childhood. Over 25 million asthma sufferers reside within the United States and nearly seven million of them are children, according to the National Institutes of Health.
Contrary to thought, asthma is a chronic lifelong respiratory disease that involves the lungs and bronchi (air passageway that extends from the trachea). The left and right bronchus splits off to form bronchiole, which are smaller branch passageways.
Asthma is characterized by inflamed airways, which makes breathing more difficult. Specific environmental factors can trigger symptoms. When these environmental substances such as toxic chemical fumes, diesel exhausts, pesticides, solvents, dust, fibers, and fungi toxins enter the respiratory tract, the airways will react.
When the airways react to a specific chemical, it causes a chain reaction. The smooth muscles that cover the bronchioles and the mucosa (lining of the respiratory tract) will react, as well. The smooth muscles will constrict, while the mucosal membrane will produce more mucus.
Symptoms are often worse early in the morning and late at night, which can interfere with your normal sleeping pattern.
- Tightening of the chest muscles
Causes Of Asthma
The inflamed air passageways, constricted muscles, and thick mucus will make it very difficult to inhale and exhale. An asthma attack is a severe flare up, which may require an emergency room treatment.
Genetics is linked to asthma, so if your parents have asthma you will most likely inherit it from them. Other causes include:
- Over exposure to environmental factors
- Specific childhood respiratory infections
- Inherited allergies (dust mite and airborne substance allergies)
What Causes An Asthma Attack?
When the asthma symptoms become so severe, an asthma attack is inevitable. There is no cure for asthma, even though you are asymptomatic, the disease still exists inside your body. Triggers will cause recurring bouts of asthmatic symptoms, which can lead to an asthma attack.
When an individual comes in contact with an allergen or environmental factor, the airways will react (shown above). This will lead to dyspnea (shortness of breath), chest tightness, coughing, and wheezing (audible whistling lung sounds). If treated immediately with the appropriate medications, you can prevent an asthma attack from occurring.
Types Of Asthma
- Occupational – develops after long-term exposure to industrial chemicals and dusts
- Exercise-Induced – occurs within 5-10 minutes after the onset of exercising
- Cough-Variant – a cough is triggered, when postnasal drip and mucus drains down into the back of the throat. GERD and heartburn are also asthma triggers, which will cause bouts of a non-productive cough
- Nighttime – may be linked to the reclining position, postnasal drip, or cooling of the air passageways.
- Allergic – exposure to environmental factors, pest, food, pet dander, and atmospheric allergens
- Without Allergies – are asthma symptoms that normally follows a viral respiratory infection
AERD (aspirin exacerbated respiratory disease) is linked to aspirin, which often occurs in individuals with an aspirin sensitivity.
Smoking And Asthma
Cigarette smoke is a chemical that will irritate the mucosa, which will lead to inflammation. Long-term tobacco use will cause the lungs to weaken and lead to permanent damage to the respiratory tract.
Secondary smoke can be detrimental to a child’s respiratory system, since it can trigger asthma attacks and lead to pulmonary carcinoma. If you have small children, you should never smoke in the home, because it will increase their risks pulmonary diseases and carcinoma.