Asthma is an illness of the lungs. When people have asthma, their airways (the tubes carrying the air in and out) swell up and do not let enough air pass through, causing cough, trouble breathing, wheezing (a sound like whistling with breathing) and, in severe cases, death. People who have asthma often have eczema and allergies. It is possible to “outgrow” asthma or to “grow into it” with age.

If you have asthma, or think you may have it, it is important to talk to a doctor. People with asthma should have access to medications that let them lead a safe, productive and fun life. With proper medical treatment, asthma should not stop anyone from studying, working, traveling, exercising or doing anything else.

Asthma often gets worse when a person has allergies, a respiratory illness (cold, flu, pneumonia), or has been exposed to smoke or chemicals. This is called an “asthma exacerbation” and often needs additional treatment. Asthma is treated by inhalers (mist to breathe in), pills and shots. Some of the medications for asthma and allergies are the same. Some people only need medicine when they have an exacerbation and some use it every day.

Never ignore trouble breathing! If you have severe cough, trouble drawing breath, chest tightnes or strouble speaking because you need to breathe in between words always seek medical attention right away. It is best not to drive when those things happen, but either ask for a ride or call 911.