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Asthma

Summary

Asthma is a chronic disease that affects your airways. Your airways are tubes that carry air in and out of your lungs. If you have asthma, the inside walls of your airways become sore and swollen. That makes them very sensitive, and they may react strongly to things that you are allergic to or find irritating. When your airways react, they get narrower and your lungs get less air.

Symptoms of asthma include

  • Wheezing
  • Coughing, especially early in the morning or at night
  • Chest tightness
  • Shortness of breath

Not all people who have asthma have these symptoms. Having these symptoms doesn't always mean that you have asthma. Your doctor will diagnose asthma based on lung function tests, your medical history, and a physical exam. You may also have allergy tests.

When your asthma symptoms become worse than usual, it's called an asthma attack. Severe asthma attacks may require emergency care, and they can be fatal.

Asthma is treated with two kinds of medicines: quick-relief medicines to stop asthma symptoms and long-term control medicines to prevent symptoms.

NIH: National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute

Start Here

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Diagnosis and Tests

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Prevention and Risk Factors

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Treatments and Therapies

  • From the National Institutes of Health (National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health)
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  • (American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology)
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  • (American Association for Respiratory Care) - PDF
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Living With

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Related Issues

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Specifics

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Genetics

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Images

Health Check Tools

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Videos and Tutorials

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  • Video (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)
  • Video (American Lung Association)

Statistics and Research

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Striking laughter

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Journal Articles References and abstracts from MEDLINE/PubMed (National Library of Medicine)

Reference Desk

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Find an Expert

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Children

Women

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Seniors

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Patient Handouts