Asthma is a chronic condition affecting the airways of the lungs. The hallmark symptoms of asthma are wheezing and difficulty breathing, but intermittent cough or chest tightness may be the only symptom. These respiratory symptoms usually come in episodes set off by various environmental or emotional "triggers." Triggers include -- but aren't limited to -- chemicals, pollution, pollen, animal dander, exercise, and smoke.
Most people with asthma have only mild and infrequent episodes. For them, the condition is an occasional inconvenience. For others, episodes can be frequent, serious, and even life-threatening. They may need emergency medical treatment. If you have asthma, you should have regular checkups by a doctor.
An asthma exacerbation (asthma attack) may pass quickly or last more than a day. Sometimes symptoms recur suddenly and with surprising intensity. This "second wave" attack can be more severe and dangerous than the initial episode and may last days or even weeks.
Asthma affects more than 20 million Americans of all ages, including more than 6 million children. Asthma is the leading cause of school absenteeism and pediatric hospital admission. Although asthma is seldom fatal, it is quite serious. If you have asthma, there are excellent (safe and effective) prescription medications to control it, so you should seek the help of a doctor before trying alternative therapies.
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