State Agencies | Online Services

Learn about Asthma

Lungs Diagram














Source: National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, National Institutes of Health.

Asthma is a disease of the airways in the lungs. The lining of the airway swells during an asthma attack. This swelling is a way our body protects itself. It can be harmful when it happens at the wrong time or stays around too long. Normal lungs can breathe in pollen and dust without swelling. This is not the case for people with asthma.

The airways in the lungs of people with asthma are more sensitive when they breathe in tobacco smoke, pollen and dust. People with asthma can be sensitive to bacteria, viruses, cold air and exercise too. These are triggers. People with asthma have different triggers. When they come in contact with one of their triggers, it becomes hard to breathe. This is an asthma attack.

Three changes take place during an asthma attack

  • The lining of the airways swell. This is inflammation.

  • The muscles around the airways squeeze. This is bronchoconstriction.

  • The mucus glands in the airways make more mucus that is thicker than normal.

The three changes make the airways smaller. The three changes make it hard to breathe.

An asthma attack may come on quickly or over time. It can be mild to deadly.

Signs and symptoms of asthma are

  • Cough

  • Wheezing

  • Short of breath

  • Tight chest 

Asthma is a long lasting illness. This means that once you have asthma, you have asthma for the rest of your life. Your airways are still sensitive even when you feel good. You can control asthma with medicine and making a few changes in how you live.

  • See what you know about asthma and take the asthma quiz

  • Know the facts about asthma by looking at the Myths and Facts of asthma.


¿Qué es el asma?

Haga clic aquí para aprender más sobre el asma –


Page Updated: 12/7/2017