ASTHMA AND ALLERGY CENTER OF WHATCOM COUNTY | A MEDICAL SPECIALTY CLINIC SERVING BELLINGHAM AND WHATCOM COUNTY

Asthma

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Asthma is considered an inflammatory condition affecting the bronchial tubes or airways. It is a diagnosis with diverse manifestations and subtypes, making it difficult to define, and in some cases, to diagnosis and treat properly. The most important problem in asthma is variable airway narrowing in response to "triggers", such as allergy, respiratory infections, irritants, cold air and exercise. This narrowing  can  occur by two mechanisms;  inflammation and swelling within the wall of the airway, and constriction of the bands of muscle that surround the bronchial tubes. Increased mucous from inflammation can build up in bronchial tubes and contribute to airflow "obstruction". This airway narrowing or obstruction is variable or "reversible", and thus asthma is characterized by reversible airway obstruction. In many cases, especially in children with asthma, there may not always be "attacks", but chronic cough and reduced ability to exercise, and intermittent wheeze and/or cough.

Symptoms of asthma include one or a combination  of; cough, chest tightness, wheezing or shortness of breath. This diversity in clinical expression is the reason why it may be difficult to diagnose and properly treat asthma. Some patients  rarely wheeze, and others may have no symptoms except shortness of breath. It is easy to see why this problem  is compounded in childhood asthma. Young children will usually not complain of shortness of breath or chest tightness, and if they do not wheeze until symptoms are severe, there may be airway obstruction without knowing about it. However, in most cases, children with any degree of asthma will usually display the other, most common symptom of asthma, cough. Cough with exertion is often a sign of mild or moderate airflow obstruction, which if present, may progress to significant asthma if there is an upper respiratory infection or exposure to an allergen.

 Below are links to other informative web pages.

  • General asthma information from the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology   Asthma tips
  • For general information on asthma and treatment from the AAAAI:  Asthma
  • From the National Institutes of Health (NIH) click on Asthma Guidelines
  • From the Environmental Protection Agency , a good general site for asthma and the environment  EPA Asthma
  • Treatment information   Asthma Treatment
  • Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America    AAFA