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If you suffer from asthma, you probably know who you are—you experience those uncomfortable periods of breathlessness, accompanied by wheezing, coughing and tightness. Asthma is considered a disease of the lungs—but these symptoms are usually only triggered by something in the air. During an “asthma attack” the airways throughout your lungs become constricted, or smaller. That’s because they are inflamed or swollen as a reaction to physical activity, certain pollutants or airborne allergens. Mucus might also start to clog your airways, which only makes the wheezing and coughing worse.

A lot of mystery surrounds asthma. Doctors and researchers are trying to figure out what causes it, why it’s becoming more common, and how big of an effect air pollution and the environment have on asthma. Asthma seems to be at least partially genetic. Asthma symptoms are usually worsened at certain times of year—perhaps due to pollen or other allergens in the air. Environmental pollution such as dust mites and secondhand smoke can trigger asthma. If you’re experiencing asthma-like symptoms, talk to your provider. Your provider will test you for signs of asthma, but also ask you about your living environment so you can identify any possible triggers. If you wind up being diagnosed with asthma, it’s very important for you to identify the environmental factor that causes the asthma attacks so you may avoid it. Some of the most common triggers for asthma include:

  • Secondhand smoke
  • Dust mites
  • Outdoor air pollution such as car exhaust and industrial emissions
  • Pet dander
  • Mold
  • Strenuous physical exercise
  • Stress

Asthma is becoming increasingly widespread, due mostly to changes in the environment. Asthma isn’t curable, but you can keep your symptoms under control with some medications and a plan you make with your provider to help you create a hazard-free living environment and avoid possible asthma-triggering factors.

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