It's sure tough for anyone without asthma to imagine; after all, breathing is such a breeze: air just enters and exits your nose or mouth, coasting smoothly into your windpipe (trachea), through bronchial tubes and into your lungs. If you have asthma, however, taking in air can be a perilous challenge. In fact, it can make you feel like you're drowning.
Asthma is a lung disease that involves having overly sensitive tissues in your airways. These tissues are always inflamed, even if you don't feel irritated. Dust, pollen, mold spores, strenuous exercise and even cold air can trigger reactions in those tissues, making the bronchial tubes swell, excrete thick mucus and plug smaller air passageways. This can make your chest feel tight and cause coughing, wheezing and breathlessness for several hours or longer unless you use special medications. Researchers say that people in crowded cities are particularly at risk for asthma attacks because they're exposed to more icky allergens like dust mites, air pollution and cockroach droppings.
While people don't really outgrow asthma, about half of all kids who have it will experience few, if any, symptoms by the time they become teens. That's because small amounts of narrowing have less impact on airways as they grow larger. Kids who grow up also grow smarter by following their doctor's orders, routinely taking asthma medication and avoiding triggers like cigarette smoke and other irritants. And that's how they can enjoy everything that other kids do and feel free as a breeze.