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Definition of Asthma

Asthma: A chronic inflammatory disorder of the airways that is not contagious. The disorder is usually reversible, but not curable. It can be managed with medication and a reduction of indoor environmental triggers.


What happens during an asthma episode?

Airways narrow, caused by

  • A tightening of muscles that surround the airways
  • A swelling of the inner lining
  • An increase in mucus production


What to Do What Are Asthma Triggers?
  • Take medication
  • Monitor peak flow
  • Reduce or avoid
    environmental triggers

Indoor environmental triggers:

  • Secondhand smoke
  • mold
  • dust mites
  • cockroaches
  • pets

Why Be Concerned?
The quality of the air we breathe is very important to our health—and it can be especially important for people with asthma and allergies. We need to make sure that the air inside our homes is healthy to breathe because poor air quality and other pollutants in the home can cause asthma and allergy symptoms to be worse.

Did you know:
Asthma may develop at any time and at any stage of the life cycle. Over 35 percent of asthma sufferers are children. It is the most common chronic disease among children today.

  • Six percent of Alabamians have asthma.
  • Five million children under the age of 18 have asthma in America.
  • Asthma is the cause of more than 10 million lost school days every year.
  • Annual medical bills for children with asthma are higher.
  • Cost for lost workdays of parents with asthmatic children is near $1 billion.
  • The average person spends about 90% of their time indoors
  • The EPA reports that indoor air may be even more polluted than outdoor air
What Are Asthma Triggers?

Often, asthma is "triggered" by allergens or irritants in the home. For a person with allergies, certain substances (for example dust, pets, bee stings, poison ivy, drugs, or certain foods) can cause an allergic reaction in the body. You may experience, or know of someone, who has "hay fever." This is one type of health problem triggered by allergies. Hay fever may have symptoms like a runny nose or itchy eyes.

Asthma can also be caused by an allergic reaction—only in this case it affects the lungs. Other triggers in the home may be irritants—not actually allergens—but substances that irritate the airways and cause symptoms like an allergic reaction (for example, smoke, odors from household products, air fresheners and perfumes). Other causes of asthma include respiratory infections, exercise, cold air, hormone fluctuations and stress.

What to Do

Controlling the environment: There are many changes you can make in the indoor environment to reduce asthma triggers. Many of the changes are either free or very low cost—such as cleaning places where allergens may be present. Asthma triggers are different from person to person. Identifying and avoiding triggers can be part of a plan to help manage asthma.

Controlling asthma with medications: Today's advances in medicine have provided many medications that can help prevent or control asthma symptoms. You need to work with your doctor and pharmacist to learn about which medications are right for you.

Generally, there are two main types of asthma medications:

  • Long-term control medications: These medicines are taken daily to prevent asthma symptoms.
  • Quick-relief medications: These are taken to treat episodes that do happen.
Peak flow meters: By blowing into a small hand-held device called a peak flow meter you can measure how well air is moving in and out of the lungs. Daily measuring and recording of your peak flow can help you monitor your lung capacity. A drop in peak flow can be an early sign of asthma getting worse.

The most important thing to remember is that asthma CAN be controlled. You should have a written asthma management plan for you or your child. Remember, take control of your asthma instead of letting it take control of you!

Find an Expert

107 Duncan Hall
Auburn University AL 36849
Telephone:  (334) 844-7007
FAX:  (334) 844-2236
Dolores Tiner
Executive Support Assistant

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