Asthma is a chronic disease of the lungs that causes airway swelling, shortness of breath and extra mucus, which makes breathing difficult. Coughing and wheezing are typical of an asthma “attack.” The severity can range from being bothersome to interfering with daily activities. Severe asthma attacks can be life-threatening.
People with a family history of asthma have a higher risk for developing the disease; however, anyone can develop asthma at any time. Asthma may be “triggered” by exercise, infections, colds, flu, sinus infections, weather changes (very cold, dry air), medications, smoke and allergens (dust mites, pollen, pets, mold spores, cockroaches and sometimes foods).
Asthma may flare up in some people when they react to strong odors from cleaning products, perfumes or air pollution. It’s even possible for strong emotions, such as crying or laughing hard, to trigger asthma symptoms.
People who are overweight, smoke (or are exposed to secondhand smoke), or have eczema or hay fever may also be at higher risk for developing asthma. Although it can’t be cured, asthma’s symptoms can be controlled.