Controlling Asthma

girl at picnic

What Is Asthma?

Asthma is a chronic disease in which the lungs become inflamed and react to "triggers." There are many kinds of triggers and they are different for different people. Common ones include pet dander, foods, pollens, mold, mildew and dust.

When the lungs become irritated the airways swell and mucus builds up in them causing shortness of breath, coughing, wheezing, chest pain or tightness, tiredness or a combination of these symptoms. Often people with severe asthma have difficulty sleeping and breathing.

If people with asthma get an accurate diagnosis, learn what triggers an attack, take their medications and avoid triggers, their asthma can usually be controlled.

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Causes of Asthma

It is not clearly known why or how people develop asthma. Asthma can begin in early childhood or may first appear later in life. Not all childhood asthma continues into adulthood.

Research suggests that a number of things come together to produce asthma. Family history of asthma, respiratory infections in young children, exposure of toddlers to tobacco smoke, house dust mites, or cockroach droppings are a few of the things that may lead to asthma.

A variety of triggers can lead to an asthma attack in a sensitive individual. Among these are cat or dog dander, cockroach droppings, house dust mites, tobacco smoke, fungi or molds and viruses.

People react to specific indoor or outdoor air pollutants and triggers. Although getting rid of indoor triggers will not prevent asthma episodes if the individual is not sensitive to the particular trigger, getting rid of triggers will reduce asthma attacks in people who are sensitive to them.

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Controlling Asthma

Asthma is a very individual condition. Some forms of it are more difficult to manage than others. Most people who have asthma can learn how to get it under control. But getting it under control does not just happen. It takes effort to learn what triggers an individual person's asthma and persistence in following the treatment plan.

Adults with asthma may not be sure that they have it, or do not know what is needed to live well if they have asthma. Others lack faith in their ability to do what they believe is needed. Sometimes people who have asthma do not consider it a chronic condition. They may think of it as an acute "some time thing," not a chronic condition requiring ongoing care.

Parents of children who have asthma may not know what to do to successfully manage it. They may not know that smoking can cause asthma in young children and can trigger an attack in people who already have it. Or, they may not want their child to do normal things because they are afraid of an asthma attack.

Some families with children who have difficult-to-manage asthma may need community supports such as asthma education groups or asthma camps in order to learn how to successfully manage their asthma.

Older people with asthma may not realize they have it or may not be getting appropriate medications to deal with it. They need to work with their doctor to determine whether they have asthma or some other lung disease that requires different treatment.

Although it may take awhile to understand what is required for a particular child or adult to learn how to best manage his or her asthma, research shows that getting an individual Vermont Asthma Action Plan, (written asthma management plan), using the right asthma medicine and working to avoid triggers helps people get their asthma under control.

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Living Well with Asthma

Resources and information for learning more about asthma and how people with asthma can lead healthy lives.

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What You Can Do About Asthma

Managing asthma well is the responsibility of the person who has it and his or her family. But good asthma care is a team affair. It requires a working relationship between the patient and his or her physician, and, when a child is involved, with the school nurse. The "asthma team" works together by talking regularly to solve problems, review the medications, and check the effectiveness of the asthma management plan.

Get a Vermont Asthma Action Plan

One of the best ways to ensure proper asthma control is to have a written management plan called Vermont Asthma Action Plan.

Call your doctor and ask for a Vermont Asthma Action Plan. This plan should describe exactly what needs to be done to keep away from asthma triggers, recognize and treat asthma episodes and keep you well by reminding you to take your medications.

Learn more about how to control your asthma

Check out our resources for information that can help you manage your specific needs.

Don't smoke

Living in a smoke-free environment is an important part of managing asthma, for your overall health, and for the health of your children. When you decide to quit, these free services can help you find success. Best of all, through 802Quits you can get free nicotine replacement - gum, patches or lozenges - shipped right to your door (while supplies last). Visit

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Contact Us

Vermont Asthma Program
Vermont Department of Health
108 Cherry Street
PO Box 70
Burlington, VT 05402

Tel: 1-800-439-8550
Email: Vermont Asthma Program

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