Asthma is a chronic inflammatory disease of the airways and lungs. Its impact can be profound because it can interrupt sleep, limit physical activity, and disrupt family routines.

Cases of asthma are rising so fast it is now widely viewed as an epidemic. Asthma affects about 7% of the adult population, and up to 25% of children in big cities like Harlem, NY.[1,2], Asthma is on the rise among every age group all across the county.

Asthma is a "syndrome" or disease characterized by:

a) Airway obstruction

b) An exaggerated narrowing of the small airways in response to irritating stimuli (called a bronchoconstrictor response)

c) Inflammation of the airways resulting in production of thick sticky mucus which is difficult to cough out

d) Recurring attacks, with wheezing or cough caused by factors which do not affect most of the population

Asthma’s symptoms may range from mild shortness of breath to life-threatening airway obstruction. Most commonly, people wheeze when they exhale and experience an increased rate of respiration. Sometimes the wheezing can actually be heard by another person as a whistling sound when the asthmatic breathes out. Sometimes people have ronchi, rattling sounds caused by mucus in the larger airways.

Occasionally asthma sounds like a cough that just won’t stop – no wheezing. If the asthmatic attack is extremely bad, you sometimes do not hear wheezing because the air flow is so low.

Patients are generally anxious during an acute asthma attack. The anxiety subsides as the attack diminishes. If wheezing diminishes but anxiety increases, this indicates worsening of an asthma attack, and strongly suggests need for immediate medical care.

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