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Asthma is a respiratory condition characterized by episodes of airflow obstruction in the bronchial tubes. Symptoms caused by this obstruction include coughing, chest tightness, wheezing and shortness of breath. Although breathing problems are often separated by symptom-free periods, asthma is a chronic illness.

Asthma affects more than 10 million Americans and is one of the leading causes of school and work absences. Although there is no cure, many excellent treatment options are available to control and reverse this chronic obstruction of the airways.

Asthma tends to occur within families. The role inheritance plays is less obvious in adult-onset asthma. People of any age may suffer from asthma, but more than half of the cases are found in children between the ages of 2 and 17. A wide variety of "triggers" may initiate an episode of asthma. The most common triggers are allergens, aspirin, irritants, viral respiratory infections and physical exertion. Allergens are substances to which susceptible individuals may become allergic. They are a major source of problems in children and adults. Common allergens include plant pollen (tree, grass and weed), animal dander, house dust mites, molds and certain foods.

The National Institute of Health has produced two detailed documents for patients and families of asthma sufferers. You can download them by clicking on the filenames below.

  1. Information on Asthma
  2. Asthma in Children