Asthma causes serious breathing difficulty

Asthma is a chronic disease that includes broncho-constriction (tightening of the muscles around the airways) and inflammation (swelling) of the bronchial tubes. During normal breathing, air flows freely in and out of the lungs. But, during an asthma episode, the lining of the airways swell, muscles around the airways tighten and mucus clogs the tiny airways in the lungs, making breathing difficult. The airways become overly responsive to environmental changes, sometimes resulting in wheezing, coughing, breathlessness, or tightness in the chest.

Asthma is one of the most common chronic diseases in the United States. Asthma is an increasing concern across the country because of rising incidence rates, especially in children. Asthma disproportionately impacts children, females, African-Americans, and people with low incomes.

Asthma can be triggered by many things

People with asthma have airways that narrow more easily than people who do not have asthma. People with asthma are often allergic or sensitive to inhaled allergens or irritants. The causes of airway abnormality and their relationship to allergies and irritants are not known.

A variety of factors can trigger an asthma episode including:

  • viral infections
  • exposures to allergens (e.g., dust mites, dander protein particles shed by pets; mold; pollen)
  • exercise
  • tobacco smoke
  • air pollution
  • strong emotional expressions
  • chemical irritants
  • drugs (aspirin and beta blockers)

Each person with asthma can react to a different set of triggers. Identification of these factors in an individual is a major step towards learning how to prevent an asthma episode. See list of asthma triggers, and visit Minnesota's Be Air Aware to learn how to stay healthy and improve air quality.

What is being done about asthma in Minnesota?

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