What is Asthma?

A chronic long term condition that affects the small air passages in the lungs.

When an asthmatic person comes into contact with a trigger, the muscle wall of the air passages contract, making the airways narrow and become inflamed and swollen. a sticky mucus is produced by the cells lining the air passages that causes further narrowing.


This produces symptoms of:

  • tightening of the chest
  • cough
  • shortness of breath
  • wheeze


The triggers for the attacks are varied and include:

  • viral infections
  • dust
  • pollen
  • animal fur
  • pollution
  • household chemicals
  • changes in temperature

Those affected by it may have a family history of asthma, eczema and hay fever and other allergies, although that is not always the case.

Many in the UK are affected by asthma and numbers seem to be increasing. Sadly eight people a day are hospitalized due to their asthma and up to 3 people a day die from it.  It is a condition that is usually managed well with a combination of medication to both prevent attacks occurring and reliever medication for when the attacks actually occur.


Most asthmatics should carry their prescribed medication to relieve attacks with them. These are the steps that should be followed if someone is  having an attack. The patient should:

  1.  Take one to two puffs of their reliever inhaler (usually blue), immediately.
  2. Sit down and try to take slow, steady breaths.
  3. If they do not start to feel better, the patient should take two puffs of their reliever inhaler (one puff at a time) every two minutes. They can take up to ten puffs.
  4. If they do not feel better after taking the inhaler as above, or if you or they are worried at any time, call 999.
  5. If an ambulance does not arrive within 10 minutes and they are still feeling unwell, repeat step 3.

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