Lesson 1: What is Asthma?

So, if asthma isn't a pizza topping, what is it?

Asthma is a respiratory disorder that can cause you to experience wheezing, shortness of breath and tightness in your chest. For many people, asthma occurs in response to environmental triggers that cause an allergic reaction. Asthma symptoms can span a range from mild to severe, frequent to occasional, and can occur at any time. Asthma is a chronic condition and often requires daily care that includes avoiding allergens and taking medication through an inhaler.

Air traffic: What is asthma doing to my airways?

During an asthma "attack", the muscles lining the airways constrict, the airways swell and excess mucus blocks the airflow in and out of your lungs, making it hard for you to breathe. If you have allergic asthma, your acute symptoms may occur immediately after exposure or 4-6 hours later.

Try these genes on for size: The cause of asthma.

The woman sneezing behind you in line won't give you asthma. You can't "catch" asthma from someone else. Instead, add this to the list of gripes you have against your parents; there is a genetic component to asthma. Having one or more asthmatic parents increases your chance of developing the disease. Impress your friends and colleagues with these asthma facts:

That guy runs 10 miles per day, so he can't have asthma, right?

Asthma affects 17.3 million people in the United States, including nearly 5 million children. Anyone can get asthma, and it can appear at any age, although 50 percent of all cases are first seen in kids under age 10. Among kids, boys are twice as likely to have asthma than girls are. The good news is kids might outgrow their asthma.

In the bigger picture, 4 to 5 percent of the United States population has asthma. For those who have a parent or sibling with the disease, the risk of developing asthma jumps to 20 - 25 percent!

Assignment #2

Are you curious about professional athletes with asthma? Read this amazing article to learn more about this inspiring subject.

Wheezing the day away: Symptoms of asthma

The most common symptoms of asthma are wheezing (breath that makes a "whistling" sound in your airways), coughing, tightness in the chest and difficulty breathing. Other symptoms leading up to or during an asthma attack can include rapid breath or shortness of breath, itchy/watery eyes, sore throat, sneezing, head congestion, a runny nose, and a headache. Your doctor can perform more specific tests to determine the type and severity of your asthma symptoms.

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