Abnormal breathing - asthma & breathing disorders
Asthma is a chronic condition that affects the airways in the lungs. With asthma the airways in the lungs are sensitive to certain irritants. When exposed to these irritants the airways may tighten, partially close up, swell inside, and make more mucous. This makes it hard to breathe in and even harder to breathe out.
A person with asthma may experience:
- wheezing (their breath might ‘whistle’ in and out)
- shortness of breath
- tightness in the chest
- coughing (which may worsen at night)
- difficulty speaking (in more severe attacks)
- blueness around the mouth (in more severe attacks)
- One of these symptoms, or a combination of them, may be experienced.
- Symptoms may occur suddenly as an ‘asthma attack’, or they may be present most of the time
Asthma can start at any age but commonly begins in childhood affecting 1 in 4 children and 1 in 6 adults in New Zealand. Many children grow out of asthma by their teens. Others first develop asthma in adulthood (adult-onset asthma). Asthma often runs in families and can be associated with allergic conditions such as eczema and hay fever.
It is known that most people with asthma constantly have some degree of inflammation in their airways. Their airways are also sensitive to certain irritants, known as triggers. Triggers can cause tightening or constriction of the already inflamed airways, thus provoking an asthma attack.
Each individual tends to have different asthma triggers.
Common asthma triggers include:
- Cigarette smoke
- Air pollution
- Food additives
- Strong perfumes
- Some medicines eg: aspirin
- Respiratory infections
- Changes in temperature and humidity
- Psychological influences eg: extremes of emotion
- Workplace irritants eg: fumes, wood dust