During an asthma attack, symptoms may range from a mild whistling or hissing sound as you breathe to severe obstruction of the airways, potentially causing a life-threatening inability to breathe. Cough-variant asthma begins as persistent, chronic cough without shortness of breath. Although asthma can be serious, there are many ways to prevent and control symptoms.
The underlying cause of asthma is two part: 1) inflammation in the lining of the lung, and 2) structural changes in the lung due to inflammation and narrowing of air passages. Factors in indoor and outdoor environments, called triggers, can make asthma symptoms worse and cause asthma attacks in people who have asthma.
Known asthma triggers include:
Animal dander—fine scales from skin, hair, or feathers
Viral infections of the respiratory tract
Strong odors or sprays
Chemicals, including preservatives containing sulfites and dyes which are in many foods
Air pollutants, especially ozone, nitrogen dioxide, and sulfur dioxide
Changing weather conditions, especially cold air and dry air
Tobacco smoke or wood smoke
Drugs, including aspirin and other over-the-counter painkillers in individuals with a special type of asthma
Exercise, especially when exertion occurs in a cold environment
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