According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 17 million people today have asthma. A recent study conducted at Johns Hopkins Medical School suggested that the number of people suffering from asthma will double in the next 20 years, which means one person in 14 will have asthma.

What is asthma?
Asthma is a lung disease in which the airways in the lungs are extra sensitive to allergens or irritants in the air, such as pollen, mold, pets and tobacco smoke. These allergens or irritants cause the airways in the lungs to become inflamed and narrow, producing mucus. The mucus clogs the airway, and the muscles around the airways tighten, further blocking the flow of air to the lungs. As a result, the person has difficulty breathing and experiences an asthma attack.

What are the signs of an asthma attack?
Asthma attacks are serious. If the proper steps are not taken during an attack, it can lead to death. The warning signs of an asthma attack include:

  • coughing or wheezing
  • shortness of breath
  • tightness in the chest
  • peak flow 20 percent below your best

What triggers an asthma attack?
A number of irritants and allergens can trigger an asthma attack, such as:

  • air pollution
  • certain foods
  • changes in temperature
  • deodorants (spray-on)
  • dust
  • exercise
  • heartburn
  • mold
  • perfume
  • pets
  • pollen
  • sinus infections
  • sulfite (found in red wine, beer, soups and other foods)
  • tobacco smoke
  • viruses