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What Is Asthma?

Asthma is a condition that affects the airways (bronchi) of the lungs. The airways become narrower than normal. This causes the typical symptoms.

Asthma can start at any age, but it most commonly starts in childhood. At least 1 in 10 children and 1 in 20 adults have asthma. Asthma runs in some families, but many people with asthma have no other family members affected.

Symptoms Of Asthma


Chest tightness


Chronic dry cough

Waking up at night because of the above

Breathlessness on exercise or on playing games.

Causes Of Asthma?

Asthma is caused by inflammation (swelling) in the airways. The inflammation irritates the muscles around the airways and causes them to squeeze (constrict). This causes narrowing of the airways. It is then more difficult for air to get in and out of the lungs. This leads to wheezing and breathlessness. The inflammation also causes extra mucus to be produced which causes cough and further obstruction to airflow. It is not known why the inflammation occurs.

What Makes Asthma Symptoms Worse

Airborne allergens, such as pollen, animal dander, mold, cockroaches and dust mites

Respiratory infections, such as the common cold, coughs and chest infections

Physical activity (exercise-induced asthma)

Cold air

Air pollutants and irritants, such as smoke, cigarette smoke and pollution. You have to be extra careful if you are living in polluted cities like Kolkata, New Delhi, Manila, Jakarta, etc.

Certain medications, including beta blockers, aspirin, ibuprofen and naproxen. About 1 in 50 people with asthma are allergic to aspirin which can trigger symptoms

Strong emotions and stress even laughing may trigger symptoms

Sulfites and preservatives added to some types of foods and beverages, including shrimp, dried fruit, processed potatoes, beer and wine

Gastro esophageal reflux disease (GERD), a condition in which stomach acids back up into your throat

Menstrual cycle in some women

House dust mite – This is a tiny creature that lives in mattresses and other fabrics around the home

Certain food – this is uncommon and not thought to be a trigger in most cases.


Sometimes symptoms are typical and a doctor, specializing in chest diseases like asthma, easily makes the diagnosis. A Peak Flow Meter may be advised to help confirm that symptoms are due to asthma. Lung Function Test with reversibility will be done to confirm the diagnosis. This involves breathing into a machine that measures the rate and volume of airflow in and out of your lungs.

What is a Peak Flow Meter?

The peak flow meter is a small device that you blow into. It measures the speed of air that you can blow our of your lungs. If you have untreated asthma than typically you will have low and variable peak flow readings. Regular peak flow readings can be used to help assess how well treatment is working and is exactly like measuring blood pressure in hypertension and blood sugar in diabetes.