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• • • O F   M I D - M I C H I G A N   S L E E P   C E N T E R • • •

So, what exactly is asthma?

When you take a breath, air enters through your nose or mouth and travels down the windpipe, or trachea. Your trachea then splits into small airway passages called bronchial tubes. These airways divide and spread like branches on a tree, getting smaller and smaller as they go.

For your lungs to do their best work, these tubes need to be open and free of inflammation, swelling, or abnormal amounts of mucus. Kids with asthma have trouble breathing during a flare-up because their bronchial tubes swell and narrow, making it more difficult for air to get through. Swollen airways can make extra mucus, too, which can make breathing even more difficult. 

Kids with asthma always have asthma, even when they feel OK. That means that everyday stuff, like exercise, pets, or cigarette smoke, can cause an asthma flare-up.

 

Let's take a closer look...

 
 

DID YOU KNOW?
Your pet could be an asthma trigger.

Animals, like dogs, cats, and birds, produce a protein that's in their dander (dead skin cells), saliva, and urine. And even though pet hair itself isn't the problem, the protein can stick to the animal's fur whenever it licks itself. This protein causes allergic reactions in 30% of people who have asthma. On top of that, your pet's fur is a magnet for other allergens, like pollen, mold, and dust mites. So, even if you're not allergic to your pet's protein, you should always wash your hands after petting or playing with your pet, and avoid contact with your face when possible.


Asthma is never fun. But thankfully, there's help.

There are 2 different kinds of medicine that help treat asthma symptoms & flare-ups

  1. Quick-Relief Medicines
    These medicines, also called rescue or fast-acting medicine, can relax and loosen the muscles around the bronchial tubes that tighten during a flare-up. They are usually inhaled directly into the lungs and provide fast relief of wheezing, coughing, shortness of breath, and chest tightness. Quick-relief medicines are important because they help someone experiencing a flare-up breathe more easily right away. If you've been prescribed a quick-relief medicine, you should never leave home without it, no matter where you're going or what you're doing.
     
  2. Longterm Control Medicines
    These medicines are used over a long period of time to help prevent the bronchial tubes from getting swollen in the first place. They are usually inhaled or taken as a pill or liquid. Longterm control medicines are used to continuously prevent asthma flare-ups. Though you may not feel anything while taking the medicine, it is silently working to control your asthma every day. Usually, longterm control medicines are prescribed to those suffering from severe asthma, along with quick-relief medicine for when flare-ups occur.

If you have asthma, your doctor will decide what treatment is best for you.


 
 

nebulizer: a machine that produces a fine spray of liquid medicine administered through a face mask or mouthpiece

pollen: fine, powdery substance released by plants and trees; allergen

pulmonary function test: a test or series of tests that measure lung function and capacity

respiration: the process of breathing, which includes the exchange of oxygen & carbon dioxide in the blood; the taking in and processing of oxygen, and the delivery of carbon dioxide to the lungs for removal

sinuses: air pockets inside the bones of the head and face that are connected to the nose

spacer: a chamber in a metered dose inhaler (MDI) that helps medicine get into the airways better; also makes MDIs easier to use

steroid: (also: corticosteroid) medicine that reduces swelling and inflammation; comes in pill, injected, and inhaled forms

trachea: the main airway that splits into bronchial tubes in the lungs

triggers: things that cause asthma symptoms to begin or get worse

wheezing: high-pitched whistling sound or air moving through narrowed airways

air filter: (Ex. High-Efficiency Particulate Air Filter) a filter that removes particles, like allergens, in the air by forcing it through screens containing microscopic pores

allergen: something that causes an allergic reaction

alveoli: small sacs located at the ends of bronchial tubes where the exchange of oxygen & carbon dioxide takes place

anticholinergics: medicine that relaxes the muscles around the airways and helps clear mucus

asthma: a respiratory condition that makes breathing difficult

bronchial tube: the airways between the trachea and lungs that swell during asthma flare-ups

cilia: hair-like lining in bronchial tubes that helps to keep airways clean

dander: tiny scales shed from animal skin or hair; major cause of allergic reactions

inhaler: (Ex. Metered Dose Inhaler) a small aerosol device that releases a mist of asthma medicine when button is pressed

mucus: substance secreted by glands airways, nose, and sinuses;         cleans and protects airways; produced in excess during asthma flare-ups