Your Health


Asthma: Types, Triggers and Symptoms

Asthma is a chronic respiratory disease with recurrent attacks of breathlessness and wheezing, which vary in severity and frequency from person to person. According to World Health Organization estimates, more than 235 million people suffer from asthma globally.


There are two types of asthma:

  • Allergic (caused by exposure to an allergen)
  • Non allergic (caused by stress, exercise, illnesses like a cold or the flu, or exposure to extreme weather, irritants in the air or some medications)

What happens during an asthma attack?

  • The muscles around the airways tighten up, narrowing the airway
  • Less air is able to flow through the airway
  • Inflammation of the airways increases, further narrowing the airway
  • More mucus is produced in the airways, undermining the flow of air even more


What Triggers Asthma

  • Outdoor allergens, such as pollens from grass, trees and weeds
  • Indoor allergens, such as pet dander, dust mites and mold
  • Certain drugs and food additives
  • Irritants in the air, such as smoke, chemical fumes and strong odors
  • Colds, the flu or other illnesses
  • Exercise (although people with asthma can benefit from some exercise)
  • Stress
  • Weather conditions, such as cold air or extremely dry, wet or windy weather

Other triggers:

  • Cold air
  • Extreme emotional arousal such as anger or fear
  • Physical exercise.
  • In some people, asthma can even be triggered by certain medications, such as aspirin and other non-steroid anti-inflammatory drugs, and beta-blockers (which are used to treat high blood pressure, heart conditions and migraine)
  • Urbanization has also been associated with an increase in asthma, however the exact nature of this relationship is unclear


Most Common Symptoms of Asthma

  • Coughing, especially at night, during exercise or when laughing
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Chest tightness
  • Shortness of breath
  • Wheezing (a whistling or squeaky sound in the chest when breathing, especially when exhaling)

If people with asthma are exposed to a substance to which they are sensitive or a situation that changes their regular breathing patterns, the symptoms can become more severe. If left untreated, the symptom(s) being serious in nature can become deadly.

Consequences of Not Controlling Your Asthma

Recurrent asthma symptoms frequently cause sleeplessness, daytime fatigue, reduced activity levels and school and work absenteeism.

Managing, Treating and Curing

Prevention of symptoms is the best strategy. A person with asthma should know what situations trigger an attack and avoid them whenever possible. If asthma attacks are severe, are unpredictable or flare up more than twice a week, consultation with an allergist can help to determine their cause and provide long-term treatment that controls or eliminates the symptoms.

Asthma cannot be cured, but appropriate management and medication can control the disorder and enable people to enjoy a fuller life. In addition, some children with milder forms of asthma outgrow their symptoms with age.