What is Asthma?

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Gardiner says mild asthma may feel like a shortness of breath, but an asthma "attack" has three major components:

  1. Inflammation that causes the airway to swell.  This swelling makes the airway smaller, making it more difficult for the air to pass in and out of the lungs.
  2. Airways have muscle bands around them, and during an attack these muscles tighten, making the airways even more narrow.  This is called bronchoconstriction or sometimes it's called bronchospasm.
  3. Airways also produce more mucus, which blocks an already narrowed airway.

“Several things can cause an asthma attack, and it can be different for everyone,” said Gardiner. She explained the most common causes include:

  • Infection--colds, flu, other illnesses
  • Irritants--smoke, air pollution, fumes
  • Allergens--dust mites, pollens, molds, animal dander, allergies to foods, cockroach droppings
  • Cold weather
  • Stress caused by emotions
  • Medications
  • Exercise

Gardiner says it is important to be seen by a doctor if you suspect asthma. Besides making an official diagnosis, medical professionals can help patients to create an action plan of how to avoid triggers and treat attacks. In some cases, medications can be required.

To learn more about asthma, what treatments and services are available, go to https://intermountainhealthcare.org/services/respiratory-care/conditions/asthma/.

Do you have other questions about asthma?  , Intermountain Healthcare and KUTV 2 will be holding “Ask The Expert” on Tuesday, December 13th.  Medical experts will answer questions about asthma during interviews on air and over the phone with callers from noon to 5:30 p.m.  Those interested can call 877-908-0680 to speak free of charge to one of the Intermountain experts, including doctors, nurses, respiratory therapists, and other medical professionals, or receive answers via Facebook or Twitter using #kutvasktheexpert.