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Asthma is a chronic disease in which sufferers have repeated attacks of difficulty in breathing and coughing.
The windpipe (trachea) contains small tubes (bronchioles) which are made up of ring-shaped muscles that can contract and relax. Anything that makes them contract makes it difficult for the air to pass through and gives rise to the characteristic wheezing noise. Those with asthma can experience the following symptoms: difficulty in breathing and shortness of breath; wheezing when breathing out; coughing, especially at night, with a little mucus.
People of all ages get asthma but 50% of sufferers are children, mostly boys, under 10. Among adults, women are more likely to develop asthma than men.
Asthma can be triggered by external agents, such as irritants in the atmosphere which are breathed in, or by internal reactions within the body.
The following things are thought to trigger acute asthma attacks:
If you suspect that you or your child has asthma, then you should consult your doctor. There are two types of medication that can be prescribed to help with asthma: relievers and preventers. Relievers are quick-acting medicines that relax the muscles of the airways and open them up, making it easier to breathe. Preventers act over a longer period and work by reducing the inflammation in the airways. They should be used regularly for maximum benefit.
Asthma cannot be cured. However, with the correct medication it can be controlled so that the symptoms give the sufferer little trouble. It is also vital to stop smoking if you suffer from asthma to reduce the risk of developing long-term lung cancer.