Take a deep breath...without the OXYGEN you breathe in, you would quickly die. Your LUNGS make sure that air you breathe in can be picked up by blood cells and sent to many other cells in the body. The lungs are sort of like a train station that blood cells pass through to pick up oxygen and deliver to the rest of your body.
Humans have two lungs for breathing. Breathing is controlled by the brain automatically, without even having to think about! Both lungs expand and contract, and fill with oxygen as we breathe, but the lungs cannot fill by themselves - they use a strong muscle just below the lungs called the DIAPHRAGM. The diaphragm pulls and pushes the lungs to fill with oxygen, and then helps them to get ready for your next breath.
Inside the lungs tiny tubes (called BRONCHIOLES) are even smaller air sacs (called ALVEOLI) fill with oxygen when you take a breath. Blood rushes by these air sacs and picks up oxygen from them. Kind of like an oxygen piggyback ride! The blood delivers this oxygen throughout your body to cells that work to keep you healthy. When the blood runs out of oxygen, they head back to the lungs to pick up more oxygen! How Do You Know if You Have Asthma?
How Did You Get Asthma?
You don't just catch asthma, like a cold or the measles. It's not something you can get from other people. Although things like colds and allergies can make your asthma act up.
So just what is asthma?
Well, asthma is a condition. That means that sometimes you notice it, and sometimes you don't. But it's always there.
Asthma happens when something causes your airways - the tubes in your chest that you breathe through - to get swollen. When your airways get swollen, it makes it harder for you to breathe. And when that happens, it might make you:
- Cough, or
- Get a tickly or tight feeling in your chest, or
- Breathe all wheezy, or maybe even
- Have trouble catching your breath
Lots of things can cause symptoms:
- Smelly stuff, like smoke or pollution.
- Invisible stuff, like dust and cold air.
- Gross stuff, like mold or cute little kitty cats. (Okay, so kitty cats aren't gross, but the little bits of dead skin, called "dander” that they shed certainly are! Yuck!)
- And sometimes, when your airways are swollen, even fun stuff like running and jumping and playing can cause symptoms.
Now that you know what asthma is, how do you control it. You should always carry a medication that keeps your airways clear. Usually it’s called “an inhaler” and it can come in a whole bunch of different shapes and types. Your Doctor should tell you which one works best for you, and teach you how and when to use your inhaler. If you have asthma, you may even need two types of medication:
- Reliever medication (sometimes called your rescue medication), and
- Controller medication (sometimes called your preventer medication)
Your controller medication comes in many colors and shapes. Sometimes it’s a pill, or sometimes-another inhaler, or even in a round flat “disc” You use your controller medication every day just as your doctor told you to do, so that you can keep your airways clear and keep the symptoms from coming back. This means taking your controller even when you feel good, because it will help you to keep feeling good. This is very important because your controller (or preventer) medication needs a few weeks to work really well and if you don’t take it every day, the medication won’t be able to work the way it’s supposed too.
Your medications are the most important Asthma tool you have. Learning how to use them the right way, .can be difficult but once you do, you’ll be surprised just how easy it is! Just remember: You control the inhaler. The medication inside the inhaler controls the asthma. And that's how you control the asthma (and not the other way around). With these tools, plus a few other tricks and tips; you'll find that you can run and play and sleepover just like every other kid. You won't look different. You won't act different. But you will know how to think different and to act fast.
Oh, and one more thing
Remember, you're not alone. There are lots of kids who have asthma just like you. Maybe you know some other kids who have it. Maybe you know some kids who might have asthma but don’t know it yet. You can help them by telling them about your asthma and how you take charge of your asthma. You never know, maybe you’ll be able to help someone else!