What is Asthma?

Asthma is an inflammatory condition of the airways.  When you have asthma, your airways tend to swell and the muscles around your airways tighten.  All of this causes your airways to narrow and slow down the air you are trying to exhale.  When you can’t exhale completely, air gets trapped in your lungs making it difficult to inhale deeply.

What are symptoms of Asthma?

Coughing, wheezing, chest tightness or pressure, and shortness of breath are all common symptoms of asthma.  However, symptoms can vary from person to person.  Most do not have all these symptoms at the same time and their symptoms will be different for each asthma attack.

Will I always have asthma symptoms?

People with asthma can lead active lives.  You can participate in sports, attend school and avoid hospital stays and emergency room visits with proper asthma management.  Most people go extended periods of time without any symptoms then have episodes of acute worsening, called asthma attacks.

How can I control my asthma?

Visit your doctor regularly and if your doctor gives you an asthma action plan follow it closely.  When possible avoid triggers that may cause you to have an asthma attack.  Most importantly, watch for early warning signs that an asthma attack may be on the way and act quickly to stop it.

What are asthma triggers?

These are things outside the body which cause your airways to become swollen and tightened.  Triggers are different for every person.  Therefore, the first step to preventing asthma episodes is knowing your asthma triggers and finding ways to avoid them.

What are some common triggers?

  1. Pollen and outdoor molds
    • Stay indoors in the afternoon when pollen count is high
    • Use air conditioning in the home when possible
    • Keep windows closed during seasons when pollen and mold are highest
    • Avoid sources of molds such as wet leaves and garden debris
    • Avoid damp and dark places, like basements
  2. House dust mites
    • Cover your mattress and box spring in an airtight cover
    • Cover your pillow in an airtight cover or wash pillowcase once a week
    • Do not sleep or lie on fabric furniture
    • Remove carpets that are laid on concrete and replace carpets with flooring
    • Wash your bed covers, clothes, and stuffed toys once a week in very hot (130° F) water
    • Reduce indoor humidity to less than 50% by using a dehumidifier
    • Remove carpets from you bedroom
    • Do not use a vacuum or stay in a room while it is being vacuumed.  If you must vacuum use a dust mask or use a central vacuum cleaner with the collecting bag outside of the home
  3. Animal skin, hair, feathers
    • Remove the animal from the house
    • If you must have a pet, keep it out of your bedroom at all times
    • If there is forced-air heating in the home with a pet, close the air ducts in your bedroom
    • Wash the pet weekly
    • Try to avoid visits to friends and relatives who have pets
    • Ask your doctor which medicine to take before visiting homes or places where animals are present
    • Do not use products such as pillows or comforters that are made of feathers
    • Do not use pillows, bedding, and furniture stuffed with kapok (silky fibers from the seed pods of the silk-cotton tree)
    • Use HEPA filters in vacuum cleaners, heaters, and air conditioners
  4. Cockroaches
    • Use roach traps to control roaches
    • Keep kitchen area clean and free of uncovered food containers
  5. Indoor molds
    • Keep bathrooms, kitchens, and basements well aired
    • Clean bathrooms, kitchens, and basements regularly
    • Do not use humidifiers
    • Use dehumidifiers for damp basement areas and set humidity level to 25-50 %
  6. Tobacco Smoke (including cigarette and cigar smoke)
    • Do not smoke or do not smoke around your child
    • Do not allow smoking in your home
    • Do not allow smoking in the bedroom
    • Use an indoor air-cleaning device
    • Avoid secondhand smoke
  7. Wood smoke
    • Do not use a wood burning stove to heat your home
    • Do not use kerosene heaters
    • Limit use of fireplaces
  8. Strong odors and sprays
    • If your house is being painted do not stay in the house
    • Do not use perfume or cologne
    • Do not use strong smelling cosmetics such as hair spray and nail polish
    • Do not use room deodorizers
    • Do not use perfumed fabric softener or dryer sheets
    • Reduce strong cooking odors by using a fan and opening windows
  9. Colds and infections
    • Do not go near people with colds or the flu
    • Wash your hands regularly
    • Get rest, eat a balanced diet, and exercise regularly
    • Get a flu shot
    • Do not take over-the-counter cold remedies unless you speak to your doctor first


Asthma Action Plan

American Academy of Asthma Allergy & Immunology:

American Lung Association:

National Institute of Health: