Asthma is a condition in which the airways (or breathing tubes) of the lungs become inflamed and swollen, and produce mucus. The airways become narrowed and it is difficult to breathe through tiny airways so patients with asthma feel short of breathe, their chest feels tight and wheezy and they often develop a cough. The tiny muscles in the airways go into spasm and this makes the airways even narrower.

Many things can cause the airways in a person who has asthma to become swollen or twitchy. Some of these include viral infections like a common cold, particles in the air like pollen or house dust, cigarette smoke or cold air.

People with asthma tend to experience periods of feeling well, without any noticeable tightness or wheezing, interspersed with periods of loss of asthma control, which is called an asthma exacerbation, flare or attack.

Symptoms

  • Coughing
  • Wheezing
  • Shortness of breath
  • Tight chest

A person is more likely to develop asthma

if one or both of their parents has it.

What causes asthma and who is at risk of developing it?

What causes asthma is not known, but it tends to run in families, so genetic factors play a role, and environmental factors are also important. Very often people with asthma also have allergies.

The percentage of people who have asthma varies between countries. In Africa 10 – 20 percent of people have asthma and it is more common in children than in adults.

Babies who have eczema are at increased risk of developing asthma. Sometime adults who work in jobs where there are chemicals or dust in the air develop occupational asthma.

Learn more about Asthma & Allergic Rhinitis Management

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