Asthma

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Question

What is asthma?

Answer

Asthma is the inflammation of the lungs' airways in response to "triggers" such as irritants, stress, exercise, or allergens. Allergens are tiny airborne particles such as pollen, dust, or animal dander. Asthma often causes temporary attacks of wheezing, coughing, and tightness in the chest. It can't be cured, but the symptoms can be reduced or controlled. The goal of asthma therapy is to help people enjoy a normal, active lifestyle.

Asthma attack prevention

The most effective treatments are to avoid asthma attack triggers and use prescription medicines. Although exercise can be a trigger, most people with asthma can exercise and participate in sports if their asthma is well-controlled. You can help prevent asthma attacks by removing allergens and irritants from your environment. If dust and molds trigger your asthma, cover mattresses, box springs, and pillows with special plastic covers. Washing bedding and pillows in hot water weekly can also help. Be sure to dry bed pillows thoroughly. If mold triggers your asthma, avoid using vaporizers or humidifiers, or clean them thoroughly and often to remove mold. If animal dander causes problems for you, try to avoid it. If you have a pet, bathe the animal weekly, vacuum frequently and thoroughly, and use a HEPA (high efficiency particulate arresting) air filter. Also, avoid cigarette smoke and household chemicals that can irritate the airways and trigger asthma.

Get more detailed information about asthma in our Health Encyclopedia.

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