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What Is Asthma and How to Find Relief

Over 50 years ago my stay at home mom took my brother, sister, and myself to the grocery store. We lived in a town of 450 people and it hasn’t grown since. Back then it was okay for mom to leave us alone in the car and expect us to have behaved while she was inside. Dad was at work which didn’t matter because mom wouldn’t rat on us for misbehaving because she would take care of the problem on the spot. One day the scene was as described and with me being the oldest and my sister next we were laughing pretty hard at the antics of our little brother who was about two years old. We thought he was putting on a pretty good show. As it turned out he was having convulsions from an asthma attack. It scared the water out of mom when she came out and discovered what we were laughing so hard about. Her fear apparently made an impression on me too since I haven’t forgotten it.

Today, there are no known cures for asthma, a chronic lung disease that inflames and narrows the airways that causes recurring outbreaks of wheezing, tightness in the chest, shortness of breath and coughing. Generally the coughing most often occurs during the night or early in the morning because of inflamed swollen and sensitive airways. Swollen or narrow airways may make more mucus that further narrows the breathing airways. They tend to react strongly to certain inhaled substances.

Some symptoms of asthma are mild enough they go away on their own or with minimal treatment. I already described the attacks that are not pretty and can be fatal if not treated. As mentioned asthma has no known cure. The person with the disease can feel fine but they still have it and asthma can flare up at any time. There are treatments that allow people to manage their disease so a more normal, active life and getting a good night’s sleep is possible.

The statistics show that asthma can affect people of all ages, but mostly starts during childhood. More than 22 million people in the U.S. are known to have asthma with almost 6 million being children with boys having the disease more than girls.

What Causes Asthma?

No one knows the exact cause of asthma but some researchers link it genetically and environmentally. The Childhood Asthma Reduction Study (CARES) has an inner city program to get rid of cockroaches because their evidence shows allergens from cockroaches are risk factors for asthma. Contrary to the cockroach theory some researchers theorize that in the U.S. the emphasis on hygiene and sanitation shows a decline in asthma in children due to environmental exposures. Researchers continue to look for causes. Some risk factors are allergies but not all who suffer asthma have allergies, eczema or heredity. There are occupational risks with dust or chemicals in the work place. Inside some steel mills and foundries the dust level could be a contributing factor along with birds such as pigeons roosting inside the buildings.

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