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About Asthma

Asthma (AZ-muh) is a long-term (chronic) disease. Asthma inflames and narrows the airways in the lungs.

It causes:

  • Wheezing (a whistling sound when you breathe).
  • Tightness in the chest.
  • Shortness of breath.
  • Coughing.

These symptoms happen again and again over time, some times worse than others. Coughing often happens at night or early in the morning.

People of all ages can get asthma, but most asthma starts in childhood. In the U.S. more than 22 million people have asthma. Nearly 6 million are children. In Bernalillo County about 57,000 people have asthma.

When asthma gets worse than usual, it's called an asthma episode. (Some people call it an attack.) Many things can set off, or trigger, an asthma episode. Allergies, exercise, smog or a cold all can trigger asthma. Each person's asthma triggers are different.

In a bad asthma episode, the airways can close so much that your body doesn't get enough air. You may need to go to the emergency room. Or you may need to stay in the hospital overnight.

There's no cure for asthma. But you can control it with your health care provider's help.

The information on this page was compiled by the New Mexico Coalition for Healthcare Quality from a variety of sources, including (but not limited to) American Lung Association, National Heart Lung and Blood Institute, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, and the New Mexico Department of Health. This information summarizes core care elements appropriate to most adults. This information should not be construed as representing standards of care nor as a substitute for individualized evaluation and treatment on clinical circumstances by a qualified health care professional. Please see our disclaimer.

For more information on this complex health issue, please see the Asthma Links page for resources and sources of information.

An initiative of the New Mexico Coalition for Healthcare Quality and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, with additional funding provided by HealthInsight New Mexico