What Is Asthma?
Our lungs are made up of airways with enough tubing to cover the surface of a tennis court. The branching airways – some no thicker than a hair – end in air sacs. In a person with asthma these airways are chronically “angry and inflamed,” explains Greg Redding, M.D., North American coordinator for the International Study of Asthma and Allergy in Children and chief of pulmonary medicine at Children’s Hospital and
Many kids suffer from asthma...and their parents don't even know it!
An asthma attack occurs when “triggers” assault the airways. (See “Managing Asthma” for information on common triggers.) The lungs react to the trigger with a triple whammy. The airways swell from the inside, more mucus is produced and muscles on the outside of the air tubes constrict or spasm, as though making a fist. It’s much harder to force air through the obstructed lungs, especially to breathe out. The victim may cough or gasp for breath.
“You can’t cough mucus up through a straw,”
People with severe asthma and multiple attacks may experience scarring, he adds. The collagen in the larger airways loses it elasticity and doesn’t stretch, further decreasing lung function.
Asthma is a chronic disease, meaning that it can be controlled but not cured. It is reversible, in that lungs can go back to a threshold level of inflammation after an attack. Although many children’s symptoms will improve as they grower older, only about 25 percent outgrow the disease, according to