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What is asthma?

Asthma is a chronic (long-term) condition that affects the airways carrying the air in and out of the lungs. The airways become 'sensitive', inflamed and over-reactive when they come in contact with cold, smoke, pollen or with infection. Asthma often runs in families, especially when there's also a history of allergies (such as hayfever), eczema and/or smokers in the home.

How does asthma affect the airways? 

The airways to react in three ways:

  • The muscles around the walls of the airways constrict narrowing the airway.

  • The airway lining becomes inflamed and swollen which causes further narrowing.

  • Phlegm may build up, which in turn narrows the airways even more.

  • This narrowing of the airways make it difficult to breathe and cause other symptoms, particularly chest tightness, wheezing, and coughing.

Who gets asthma?
  • Over 2.5 million Australians have asthma – about 1 in 10 adults and about 1 in 9 or 10 children.

  • Asthma and allergies are closely linked. Asthma is more common in families with allergies or asthma, but not everyone with asthma has allergies.

  • Adults of any age can develop asthma, even if they did not have asthma as a child.

  • Some people have asthma during childhood, but later have very few or no symptoms as adults.

  • Many preschool children who wheeze do not have asthma by primary school age.

  • Indoor and outdoor pollution (including moulds, gases, chemicals, particles and cigarette smoke) can increase the risk of developing asthma.

  • Athletes can develop asthma after very intensive training over several years, especially while breathing air that is polluted, cold or dry.

Can asthma be cured, how is it treated?

Currently there is no cure for asthma. However there are effective and safe treatments to manage the disease and stop or minimize the symptoms. It is a good idea to work with your GP to develop an Asthma Plan so that you know what treatment to use and when. Click here to link to a downloadable NACA plan that you can take with you to your appointment.



For more information on asthma: National Asthma Council Australia Asthma Guide

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