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7.1 Asthma Overview




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This article is from the Children Allergies and Asthma FAQ, by Eileen Kupstas Soo kupstas@cs.unc.edu with numerous contributions by others.

7.1 Asthma Overview

On asthma: Not all people with asthma have allergies.
Roughly 5% of the population lives with asthma.

A generally accepted definition of asthma is that it is a
disease that is charaterized by increased responsiveness
of the trachea (windpipe) and bronchi (main airway) to
sometype of trigger that causes widespread narrowing of
the airways that changes in severity either as a result
of treatment, or spontaneously.

The major features of asthma include:

1. Hyper-responsiveness of the airways to a specific
trigger or group of triggers.
2. Obstruction caused by one or more of the following:
a. bronchospasm (contraction of the smooth bronchial
muscles
b. mucus formation
c. inflammation
d. edema (swollen lung tissue)
3. Reversibility: The changes in the lungs that occur as a
result of an asthma attack are not permanent, and will
resolve either spontaneously, or with treatment.

Asthma triggers can include but are not limited to:

allergens (pollen, dust, animal dander or foods)
smoke (environmental or cigarette)
exercise
cold air

Many people with asthma find that strong emotions, stress or
anxiety can make symptoms of asthma worse, especially during
a severe attack. Sometimes asthma symptoms appear for no
apparent reason.

There are two types of asthma, acute and chronic.

Acute asthma is what we generally refer to as an asthma
attack. The bronchial tubes suddenly narrow, and the person
is acutely short of breath, and (sometimes) wheezes. An
acute attack may require medical stabalization in a hospital
setting; unless special equipment, medication, and help is
available in the home.

Chronic asthma produces symptoms on a continual basis,
and is characterized by persistent, often severe symptoms,
requiring regular oral steroid use in addition to multiple
medications.

On doctor's: Allergists are not the only physicians who
treat asthma. Pulmonologists are also medically specialized
physicians who treat many people who have asthma.

 

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