School Health Newsletter

May Is National Asthma and Allergy Awareness Month

Asthma Overview

Asthma affects more than 25 million Americans. It is a chronic disease that causes your airways to become inflamed, making it hard to breathe. There is no cure for asthma. The best way to manage asthma is to avoid triggers, take medications to prevent symptoms and prepare to treat asthma episodes if they occur.
Understanding Asthma Basics

What Are the Symptoms of Asthma?

Common symptoms are coughing, shortness of breath, wheezing and chest tightness. Asthma may lead to a medical emergency. It is important to know the signs of a severe asthma episode (or asthma attack).
Understanding Warning Signs of an Asthma Attack

What Happens During an Asthma Episode?

During normal breathing, the airways to the lungs are fully open. This allows air to move in and out of the lungs freely. Asthma causes the airways to change in the following ways:

  1. The airway branches leading to the lungs become overly reactive and more sensitive to all kinds of asthma triggers
  2. The linings of the airways swell and become inflamed
  3. Mucus clogs the airways
  4. Muscles tighten around the airways (bronchospasm)
  5. The lungs have difficulty moving air in and out (airflow obstruction: moving air out can be especially difficult)

These changes narrow the airways. Breathing becomes difficult and stressful, like trying to breathe through a straw stuffed with cotton.

What Causes or Triggers Asthma?

People with asthma have inflamed airways which are sensitive to things which may not bother other people. These things are “triggers.”

Asthma triggers vary from person to person. Some people react to only a few while others react to many.

If you have asthma, it is important to keep track of the causes or triggers that you know provoke your asthma. Because the symptoms do not always occur right after exposure, this may take a bit of detective work. Delayed asthma episodes may occur depending on the type of trigger and how sensitive a person is to it.

Understanding Asthma Triggers

Allergies (Allergic Asthma)

Substances that cause allergies (allergens) can trigger asthma. If you inhale something you are allergic to, you may experience asthma symptoms. It is best to avoid or limit contact with known allergens to decrease or prevent asthma episodes.

Common allergens that cause allergic asthma include:

Irritants in the Air

Irritants in the environment can also bring on an asthma episode. Although people are not allergic to these items, they can bother inflamed, sensitive airways:


Exercise and other activities that make you breathe harder can affect your asthma. Exercise – especially in cold air – is a frequent asthma trigger. Exercise-induced bronchoconstriction (EIB) is a form of asthma that is triggered by physical activity. It is also known as exercise-induced asthma (EIA). Symptoms may not appear until after several minutes of sustained exercise. (If symptoms appear sooner than this, it usually means you need to adjust your treatment.) With proper treatment, you do not need to limit your physical activity.


Dry wind, cold air or sudden changes in weather can sometimes bring on an asthma episode.
What Is Anaphylaxis? Learn How to Identify Severe Allergic Reactions

Preventing Asthma Episodes and Controlling Your Asthma

For people with asthma, having an asthma management plan is the best way to prevent symptoms. An asthma management plan is something developed by you and your doctor to help you control your asthma, instead of your asthma controlling you. An effective plan should allow you to:

  • Be active without having asthma symptoms
  • Fully take part in exercise and sports
  • Sleep all night, without asthma symptoms
  • Attend school or work regularly
  • Have the clearest lungs possible
  • Have few or no side effects from asthma medicines
  • Have no emergency visits or stays in the hospital

Four Parts of Your Asthma Management Plan:

Helping Students Manage Asthma at School

Nurse Privott

Central Elementary School

School Nurse