What is asthma?

Asthma is a disease of the airways, the small tubes which carry air in and out of our lungs. Although there is no cure, asthma is a manageable health condition. Good asthma management & education can ensure people with asthma lead normal active lives.

Identifying asthma

People with asthma have sensitive airways, when exposures to certain triggers (such as cold air, smoke, exercise, and viruses) the sensitive airways react. They can become red and swollen (inflamed) which causes the airway muscles to tighten and produce excess mucous (phlegm). This makes the airway narrow and difficult for a person with asthma to breathe.

Common symptoms of asthma

  • wheezing
  • shortness of breath
  • coughing
  • a feeling of tightness in the chest
  • symptoms often occur at night, early morning or during/after activity

A person's asthma symptoms can vary over time- sometimes they will have no symptoms, especially when asthma is well-controlled. Symptoms often vary from person to person.

What is asthma?

What is asthma?

Who gets asthma?

Over 2.5 million Australians have asthma – about 1 in 9.

  • Asthma and allergies are closely linked. Asthma is more common in families with allergies or asthma, but not everyone with asthma has allergies.
  • Adults of any age can develop asthma, even if they did not have asthma as a child.
  • Some people have asthma during childhood, but later have very few or no symptoms as adults.
  • Many preschool children who wheeze do not have asthma by primary school age.
  • Indoor and outdoor pollution (including moulds, gases, chemicals, particles and cigarette smoke) can increase the risk of developing asthma.

© Asthma Foundation NT 2019

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