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FAQ Icon  Frequently Asked Questions

What is Asthma?

What happens during an asthma attack?

What do I do if I have an asthma attack?

What is a trigger?

What is an asthma care plan?

Does asthma come and go, day by day or week by week?

Is asthma all in a person's head?

Is asthma an emotional disease?

Can a person outgrow asthma?

Can you play sports if you have asthma?



What is Asthma?

Asthma is a disease that affects your lungs. It is a chronic disease, which means that it is with you all the time, but you only have problems or asthma attacks when something bothers your lungs. Even when you are not having any asthma signs or symptoms, your asthma is affecting your lungs. These changes are small so you don't notice them. Your airways are always a little swollen, or inflamed. When something bothers your lungs, you might have an asthma attack.

During an asthma attack three things happen:

1. The airways get squeezed a little.

2. The insides of the airways swell up. Doctors say there is inflammation in the airways.

3. The insides of the airways make too much mucus.

These things make it hard for the air to get in when you breathe in - or inhale. They also make it hard for air to get out when you breathe out - or exhale. That's why sometimes the chest feels and looks full and tight during an asthma attack and why the nostrils flare out when you breathe out.

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What happens during an asthma attack?

First, your breathing is fine. Then you get near something or do something that bothers your lungs. After awhile, your body starts to send you clues, like a cough to tell you your breathing is getting harder. But, you feel like you can keep going. If you do not take asthma medicine when you feel these clues, you will have an asthma attack.

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What do I do if I have an asthma attack?

There are several steps for handling an attack. The order in which you do these things depends on your situation and whether you have your medicine with you or need to send someone to get the medicine.

1. Take asthma rescue medicine right away.

2. Relax. Sit down somewhere away from the thing(s) that started the attack.

3. Breathe slowly to help relax.

4. Tell a grown-up or ask a friend to tell a grown-up.

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What is a trigger?

A trigger is something that starts an asthma attack; examples of triggers are environmental allergens, cold weather, emotions, and exercise. Different people have different asthma triggers.

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What is an asthma care plan?

An asthma care plan (also referred to as an asthma medicine plan) is written instructions from your doctor which are specific to your child, which tell about taking the right medicine at the right time, in the right amount, and in the right way.

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Does asthma come and go, day by day or week by week?

Unfortunately, no. People with asthma have it all the time for many years. When they have trouble breathing, they are having an asthma attack or an asthma flare-up. On those days, their asthma is not under control. But even when a person's asthma is under control, it is still there.

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Is asthma all in a person's head?

No, asthma is a disease - a breathing problem of the lungs. Asthma stays with people all the time, but asthma attacks come and go when the lungs are bothered. Because asthma is with you all the time, many children and adults take asthma medicine every day so their lungs are not bothered by things that start asthma attacks. People with asthma have sensitive lungs.

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Is asthma an emotional disease?

No, emotions do not cause the disease of asthma. But if you already have asthma, strong emotions such as crying, yelling or laughing hard may start an asthma attack.

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Can a person outgrow asthma?

People have asthma for many years. Sometimes, when children grow up, their asthma is less severe - but it is not likely that all children will outgrow it. In fact, many times asthma does not get better as a child grows - and it sometimes gets even worse. If a child has asthma, the lungs will always be more sensitive than the lungs of people who do not have asthma.

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Can you play sports if you have asthma?

Yes! Lots of people have asthma, including sport stars like Dominique Wilkens (all-star basketball player), Isaiah Thomas (basketball player), and Jackie Joyner Kersee (track star). The key to their success was learning to control their asthma so they did not have asthma attacks.

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