Asthma is a chronic lung condition that is a leading cause of childhood deaths, especially among city dwellers. The rising toll of asthma has puzzled doctors, but many attribute it to a combination of factors, such as the cost of asthma medications, which may be beyond the means of low-income families, improper use of asthma medications, and exposure to environmental pollutants.
Wheezing, chest tightness, labored breathing, and other asthma symptoms occur when the tiny muscles that control the airways to the lungs constrict, causing a bronchosphasm. Normally, the airways narrow somewhat when exposed to smoke, pollutants, very cold air, or substances that are harmful if inhaled. In asthmatic people, however, the response is exaggerated and often triggered by otherwise harmless substances or activities, such as pollen and other allergens and exercise.
Heredity may be a factor. The reason some people have hyperreactive airways is unknown ; heredity, however, is suspected of playing a role, because the disease runs in families. Many asthmatic also have hay fever and allergies. Although stress and emotional upsets can trigger or worsen an attack, experts emphasize that asthma is a lung disease, not a psychological disorder ; as such, it should be treated as a serious and even debilitating physical condition.
Some asthma attacks are quickly reversed by taking a bronchodilator medication. These ease symptoms by opening the constricted airways. Other episodes are more prolonged, and, as the airways become more inflamed and clogged with mucus, breathing becomes increasingly difficult. In such cases an injection of epinephrine and a corticosteroid drug may be needed to stop the attack.
DRINK ONE OR TWO CUPS OF COFFEE TO ABORT A MILD ASTHMA ATTACK