Asthma has many types of triggers. But, one fact always holds true with asthma: when your airways come into contact with an asthma trigger, the airways become inflamed, narrow, and fill with mucus. This increases airway resistance, and your lungs have to work harder to breathe. Shortness of breath, cough, and wheezing are typically the result. The irritation inside your airway makes you cough. This is your body’s attempt to clean out the thick mucus in your air passages.

Asthma in Children

Asthma is the most common serious disease of childhood. Children with asthma typically cough, wheeze, and experience chest tightness and shortness of breath. You may not be aware that your child does not have to wheeze to have asthma. A frequent, annoying cough especially at night or during exercise may be your child’s only symptom.

80% of children with asthma develop symptoms before age five. For children, asthma symptoms can interfere with many school and extracurricular activities. Your child may miss quite a few days of school especially during certain times of the year. Of course, this often results in you missing the equivalent number of days from work. Your child also may not want to actually play at school and avoid most strenuous activities.

Once your child is taking proper medications, aerobic exercise is a necessary daily activity. Exercise improves airway function and has many other benefits including fitness and controlling weight. Your child should be encouraged to participate in normal activities as much as possible.

Exercise Induced Asthma

When you exercise, you may experience coughing, wheezing, or chest tightness. This difficulty breathing can develop within 5-20 minutes after exercise. Exerting yourself leaves you extremely tired or short of breath. After a brief exercise session, a prolonged shortness of breath may appear beginning 5-10 minutes afterwards. If you are experiencing these two situations, you may be suffering from exercise induced asthma.

Exercise induced asthma occurs when your airways are overly sensitive to sudden changes in temperature and humidity, especially when breathing colder, drier air. During strenuous activity, we all tend to breathe through our mouths, allowing the cold, dry air to reach the lower airways without passing through the warming, humidifying effect of our nose. During mouth breathing, the air you breathe is moistened to only 60-70% relative humidity, while nose-breathing warms and saturates air to about 80 to 90% humidity before it reaches your lungs.

Exercise induced asthma does not have to mean the end of regular exercise. There are several forms of exercise you can incorporate into your daily routine are less likely to trigger your asthma. Swimming is often considered the sport of choice for asthmatics because it is a year round activity in a warm, humid atmosphere. Walking, leisure biking, and hiking are also activities less likely to trigger exercise induced asthma. Team sports that require short bursts of energy are less likely to trigger asthma than sports requiring continuous activity. Cold weather activities such as cross-country skiing and ice hockey are also more likely to aggravate airways and should generally be avoided.

Occupational Asthma

Occupational asthma is a lung condition caused by inhaling fumes, gases, dust or other potentially harmful substances while on the job. With occupational asthma, symptoms of asthma may develop for the first time. Also, childhood asthma may recur because of this exposure.

Occupational asthma can last for a lengthy period. It can even persist if you are no longer exposed to the substances that triggered your symptoms. Typically, your symptoms get worse through the course of the work week, improve on your days off, and then reappear when you return to work.

A previous personal or family history of allergies will make you more likely to develop occupational asthma. However, even if you do not have any asthma history, you can develop the condition if exposed to circumstances and conditions that trigger it.Smokers are at greater risk for developing asthma following certain work-related exposures.

Occupational asthma has 3 common causes:

  • Effects of direct irritants– Workers exposed to these substances will frequently begin wheezing and experiencing other asthma symptoms immediately after exposure to the irritant. This is an irritant reaction rather than an allergic reaction, and it does not involve the immune system.
  • Allergic reactions (long-term exposure) — This type of asthma generally develops only after long-term exposure to a work-related substance. Your body’s immune system needs time to develop allergic antibodies or other immune responses to a particular substance before it produces a reaction.
  • Pharmacologic mechanisms– Long term inhalation of some substances in aerosol form can lead to the accumulation in your lungs of naturally occurring chemicals in your body like histamine and acetylcholine. Acetylcholine causes your airway muscles to contract and constrict your breathing passage. These are exactly the same results as asthma.
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