Asthma – what is asthma?

Asthma – what is asthma?


  • What is asthma?
  • What does it look and feel like?
  • How do you get it?
  • Triggers
  • conclusion

This topic tells you what asthma is.  To find out how to manage asthma see the topic Asthma – managing your asthma.

What is asthma?

It is a disease that affects the airways in the lungs, making them go narrow for a few hours or sometimes days, so that it is harder for air to get through.

This makes it harder to breathe.

What does it look and feel like?

  • feeling sickBreathing sounds wheezy (sounds like whistles)
  • Breath is short and panting
  • It’s hard to breathe (especially breathing out)
  • The chest feels tight (like it is being squeezed)
  • It’s hard to stop coughing (especially at night)

How do you get it?

  • No one knows exactly why some children get asthma.
  • It often runs in families.
  • It can start at an early age and stop when a person has become an adult.
  • Some children grow out of asthma; sometimes it comes back when they are older.
  • It can be related to hay fever and eczema.


There are many things that can start or trigger an attack so it is important for you to find out what starts you off.

  • cold bugColds and flu. Infections in winter cause most attacks of asthma for kids (70%).
  • Cigarette smoke. Avoid smoky places and choose not to smoke when you’re older.
  • Exercise. Breathing fast can dry out airways. Always warm up and use your medication before you exercise if the doctor has told you to. Exercise helps you breathe better, particularly swimming.
  • Cold air or cold weather. Wrapping a scarf over your nose and mouth may help.
  • smogDust and dust mites. You just have to keep your room tidy so that Mum, or you, can clean up those pesky little critters! You may need to have special protectors on mattresses and pillows and take out carpets and rugs too, as these are places where dust mites hang out.
  • Polluted air so avoid wood smoke and fog if you can.
  • Strong smelling chemicals (like oven cleaners) or the fumes from some factories.
  • Some medicines (like aspirin for some people)
  • Pollen from grass and blossom on shrubs and trees.
  • Some  foods for some people.
  • Some types of animals.It’s best not to have a pet sleeping in your room.
    dog   cat 

Seems like a long list! But you may not be affected by all of these.

test tubeIf you have asthma it is really important for you to make your own list of things that trigger an attack for you.

You may need to have allergy tests so that you can find out.

You will have to work closely with your parents or carer and your doctor so that you can decide together how to manage your asthma.

You may have to use a ‘preventive’ inhaler as well as a ‘treatment’ inhaler.

To find out more, have a look at our topics on Managing your asthma, and Allergies – for kids


Dr KateAsthma affects 1 in 9 children in  so you will probably not be the only person in your class who has it. There may be other people in your family like your parents, grandparents, uncles, aunties or cousins who also have asthma.

Learning how to manage your asthma is very important, so that you can live an active life. You will have to become a detective to help your doctor work out how best to manage your asthma.

We’ve provided this information to help you to understand important things about staying healthy and happy. However, if you feel sick or unhappy, it is important to tell your mum or dad, a teacher or another grown-up.

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