Q: What is asthma? 

A: Asthma is a long-term, inflammatory lung disease in which the airways of the lung tighten and constrict, causing wheezing, breathlessness, chest tightness and cough. These symptoms can be at least partly reversed, either spontaneously or with treatment. Asthma also causes the airways of the lung to become especially sensitive to a variety of asthma triggers. In addition, the particular trigger or triggers and the severity of symptoms can differ for each person with asthma.Q: How serious a health problem is asthma in the United States? 

A: If you or your child has asthma, you are not alone. Seventeen million Americans of all ages and races have asthma. Nearly one in 13 school-aged children has asthma, and the percentage of children with asthma is rising more rapidly in preschool-aged children than in any other age group. Asthma is the leading cause of school absenteeism due to a chronic illness, accounting for over 10 million missed school days per year. Asthma can lead to many nights of interrupted sleep, limitation of activity, and disruptions of family and care-giver routines. Asthma symptoms that are not severe enough to require a visit to an emergency room or to a physician can still be serious enough to prevent a child with asthma from living a fully active life.Q: What causes asthma? 

Asthma is a complex issue. Research suggests that a combination of family history and environmental factors may cause asthma, but no one knows why children or adults develop asthma. However, there is a wealth of information to help people effectively manage their asthma. It is important for people with asthma to learn what triggers their asthma episodes and to avoid exposure to the particular triggers or triggers. Since Americans spend up to 90% of their time indoors, exposure to indoor allergens and irritants may play a significant role in triggering asthma episodes. Some of the most common asthma triggers found indoors include animal dander, cockroaches, dust mites, mold and secondhand smoke. Other asthma triggers include: respiratory infections, pollens (trees, grasses, weeds), outdoor air pollution, food allergies, exercise and cold air exposure.Q: If I have a child with asthma, what can I do to reduce further asthma episodes from occurring? 

Effectively managing a child's asthma can best be accomplished by working with your doctor to develop a plan that includes the use of medications and avoidance of environmental triggers. Since children spend most of their time in schools, day care facilities or at home, it is important to reduce their exposure to environmental asthma triggers as much as possible in each of these environments.Animal dander:  It is best not to have furry pets. If present, try to keep them out of areas where children spend a lot of time. Keep pets out of carpeted areas.Cockroaches & Rodents:  To manage a cockroach and/or rodent problem, water and food sources must be controlled. Store food in tightly sealed containers, clean up scraps and crumbs promptly Do not leave food, water or garbage exposed.Dust mites:  Dust mites live in mattresses, pillows, carpets, fabric-covered furniture, bed covers, clothes, and stuffed toys. Wash bedding (such as sheets, bedcovers and blankets) once a week in hot water. Choose washable stuffed toys, wash them often in hot water, and dry thoroughly. Keep stuffed toys off beds. Cover mattresses and pillows in dust-proof (allergen-impermeable) zippered covers.Mold:  Fix plumbing leaks promptly and get rid of water drips and spill. Fix moisture problems and thoroughly dry wet areas within 24 to 48 hours to prevent mold growth. Clean up hard, moldy surfaces with water and detergent, then dry thoroughly.Secondhand Smoke:  Do not allow smoking in your home or in the car. Request that the smoker smoke outside.   

Montana State University Extension Service  ~  Taylor Hall   ~  Bozeman, MT  59717 
Phone: (406) 994-3451  ~  Fax: (406) 994-5417 
Questions, comments, or suggestions? 
Contact: blallen@montana.edu
y Native AIR (Asthma Intervention & Reduction)
This effort is funded by the 
U.S. Dept. of Housing & Urban Development - Healthy Homes & Lead Hazard Control