What Does Asthma do?
To understand asthma, you have to first understand your lungs. When you breathe, your body uses air sacks that work like balloons to take in air and to push it out. These air sacks are your lungs. They are in your chest. When you breathe air in through your nose or mouth, your lungs fill with air–just like a balloon. When you breathe out, they flatten–just like when you let the air out of a balloon.
When you have asthma, things in the air, like pollen and smoke, can scare your lungs. We call these things triggers. When you breathe in triggers, your lungs become afraid. Then, they close themselves, so no more triggers can get in and make them more afraid.
We talk about some of the triggers below:
- Allergens are things your body doesn’t like. If you eat or smell allergens, your body fights them off by doing things like closing your lungs so you can’t take in any more of them. Allergens are different for different people. Common allergens are peanuts, milk, and wheat.
- Infections are sicknesses that fight to make your body feel better. Your body does not like to be sick. When you get an infection, your body fights really hard to get better. It fights so hard, that it heats up and gets hot. When your body gets hot from fighting disease, we call this increased heat a fever.
- Exercises when you move your body and start to sweat. Some exercises are running, jumping, and playing. When you have asthma, your lungs are not always strong enough to handle a lot of exercising and playing. Sometimes, when you have asthma, your lungs get tired and close themselves off.
- Abrupt weather changes are when the weather changes quickly. This is like when it is very warm in the winter, then, the next day, it starts to snow!
- Airway irritants are things that upset your breathing. Your body does not like to breathe them in. Some common irritants are fireplace and cigarette smoke.
When your lungs close off to keep these things out, you are having what is called an asthma attack. During an asthma attack, you have a hard time breathing. Sometimes, you may make funny sounds when you breath, you may cough, or your chest may feel tight and hurt. When you have an asthma attack, you may feel afraid. It is ok to feel afraid because asthma attacks are scary.