How does asthma work? – Christopher E. Gaw

By Adem Lewis / in , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , /

It starts with a cough, or a wheeze. Soon, your chest feels tight. Your breathing speeds up
and gets shallower, making you feel short of breath. These are common symptoms
of an asthma attack. Around the world, more than 300 million
people suffer from asthma, and around 250,000 people
die from it each year. But why do people get asthma
and how can this disease be deadly? Asthma affects the respiratory system, particularly the smaller airways, such as the bronchi and bronchioles. These airways have an inner lining
called the mucosa that’s surrounded
by a layer of smooth muscle. In people with asthma, the airways
are chronically inflamed, which can make them hyper-responsive
to certain triggers. Some of the many asthma triggers
include tobacco smoke, pollen, dust, fragrances, exercise, cold weather, stress, and even the common cold. When people with asthma are exposed
to these triggers, an asthma attack, or exacerbation,
can occur. But how exactly do such everyday factors
lead to an asthma attack? If an asthmatic is exposed to a trigger, the smooth rings of muscle that circle
the small airways in their lungs contract and become narrow. Simultaneously, the trigger
worsens inflammation, causing the mucosal lining
to become more swollen and secrete more mucus. Under normal conditions, the body uses this mucus to trap
and clear particles, like pollen or dust, but during an asthma attack, it blocks the narrowed airways,
making it even harder to breathe. These effects lead
to this symptoms of asthma. Smooth muscle constriction results
in the feeling of chest tightness. Excess mucus and increased inflammation
can cause coughing. And the wheezing noise? That happens because
as the airways constrict, air whistles as it passes through
the narrowed space. These symptoms may make a person
feel like they’re running out of air. Yet counterintuitively,
during an asthma attack, the inflammation can make it harder
to exhale than inhale. Over time, this leads to an excess
of air in the lungs, a phenomenon known as hyperinflation. The trapping of air inside the lungs
forces the body to work harder to move air in and out of them. Over time, this can lead to reduced oxygen
delivery to the body’s organs and tissues. Sometimes, in untreated
severe asthma attacks, the body can’t keep up, which can lead to death from
lack of oxygen. So how do we prevent these uncomfortable
and potentially fatal attacks in people who have asthma? One way is to reduce the presence
of triggers. Unfortunately, the world
is an unpredictable place and exposure to triggers can’t
always be controlled. This is where inhalers, the primary
treatment for asthma, come in. These medications help asthmatics both
control and prevent their asthma symptoms. Inhalers transport medication along
the affected airways using a liquid mist or fine powder
to treat the problem at its source. They come in two forms. There are reliever medications, which treat symptoms immediately
and contain beta-agonists. Beta-agonists relax constricted muslces, allowing the airways to widen so more air
can travel into and out of the lungs. The other form of inhalers serve
as preventive medications, which treat asthma symptoms
over the long term, and contain corticosteroids. Corticosteroids reduce airway sensitivity
and inflammation, so asthma can be kept under control. They’re also crucial in preventing
long-term damage from chronic inflammation, which can cause scarring of the airways. Inhalers are known to be very effective, and have helped many people
live better lives. Although we’ve come a long way
in improving how we treat and diagnose asthma, we still don’t know its exact causes. We currently believe that a combination
of genetic and environmental factors play a role, potentially acting during early childhood. Recent research has even linked
poverty to asthma incidents. This may be due to reasons ranging from exposure to additional pollutants
and environmental irritants to difficulties in obtaining medical care
or treatment. As our understanding of asthma improves, we can continue to find better ways to
keep people’s airways happy and healthy.

100 thoughts on “How does asthma work? – Christopher E. Gaw

  1. Never panic when u have an asthma attack. Calm ur heart rate down and take deep breaths in and out slowly. Over time ur chest will start to feel sour, just keep pushing and stay positive. Do not think about death, trust me I know dat feeling. It makes ur body just want to give in. I got asthma at 13, currently 22 yet never used an inhale for the past 6 years or had an attack. I've outgrown it succesfully

  2. Thank you so much Ted-Ed for making this video. The information is super helpful,and the animation is just perfect! I was studying Asthma and couldn't find proper information related to it. But your single video explained everything. Thank you again for your amazing service.

  3. Personally my asthma is wierd,it's more emotional,a cold, laughing too much or even a seafood allergy can activate it.

  4. I almost died from my asthma attack like my pneumonia made it worse for me. because I kept on coughing and I eventually threw up then I coudn't breath I'm lucky to have my inhaler next to mee

  5. Honestly I have severe asthma and I’ve always thought life was unfair cause I see people running without any problems and it makes me upset.

  6. I feel bad for people with asthma. I don’t have it, but in allergy season when I inhale pollen, I can’t stop coughing, my chest tightens up slightly & I get weak. Wish nobody has to suffer asthma or anything harmful.

  7. I have accute asthma, so it isn't too bad but when I run or go hiking and it gets hard to breath people usually tell me I'm overreactin instead of trying to help the situation

  8. My teachers in school would always force me to p.e (I can do it in amounts) saying it'd be fine and I can't die. I was hospitalized for most of my early childhood…SMH.

  9. I was having an asthma attack once and my friend told me to breathe in through my mouth. That's not how it works

  10. the best way to describe asthma for me is if someone super heavy is just sitting on your chest and it’s so hard to breathe

  11. Once I had to run 12 min full speed at PE. I was practicly dying in n outside and a guy said to me: It's all in your mund, just move your legs and keep breathing. Anyone relates to these kind of comments ?

  12. My little sister has asthma. A couple of years ago, we were both home alone and she had an asthma attack. One of the scariest nights of my life. I honestly thought she was going to die. 🙁

  13. I think my doctor has wrongly diagnosed me with asthma because I've never had any issues with breathing before and recently I've had a very snotty nose from hay fever. Mucus has backed up into my airways because I dont blow my nose enough and blocked them up.

  14. When we find an actual full cure for asthma will it be used? No it wont as it will damage the companies that create the inhalers, this causes the companys to shut down due to the amount of asthmatics being cured with the solution(doubt it) or the decrease in the purchases of inhalers. I have a way to cure asthma without any medication. It will be hard to do but it works. I did this for 2 years and the asthma had gone completely. So what you do is when you feel weezing happening just let it happen. Resist the urge to use the inhaler. Use it if it gets severe but try not to use it. Dont smoke!! The weezing will stop after a while. What i think happened with my lungs over time was the body had figured out how to fight the airways closing and recognising that it was abnormal behaviour of the lungs. The inhaler cures weezing straight away so that means the body doesnt have time to react and come up with a solution to the weezing itself?? So after doing this for 2 years my lungs would weeze less and less due to the body adapting to the asthma and overcoming it. Eventually it was completely gone and when i exercise or even be around pollen or dust the asthma does not trigger. Please give this a go. It worked for me and will work for u. Hope this helps.😃

  15. I hate how common it is, that I have it (had an attack yesterday) ,that there is so many triggers, you're born with it and that it has no cure

  16. U ever just cough so hard you use then energy and go to sleep or get drowsy and sometimes have headaches and have that huge machine

  17. Wait you can DIE from asthma?? I have really bad shortness of breath every winter, and it’s super bad after dance every night. I’m like 90% sure I have seasonal asthma, but I’ve never been diagnosed. Not to mention of super scared of dying. I should probably go to the doctor😂

  18. If you reading this and have asthama read it carefully,
    It is not if you have asthma or not what matters is at which level your asthma is, you just need to follow a healthy diet,may you know that when the amount of cough increase in our body the asthma problem also increases so eat healthy food,avoid food which can increase the amount of cough in you body like banana,biscuits, cakes,dairy products etc ,I'm an asthma patient but I use my inhaler when I feel problem while inhaling (normally once or twice a week)take care of your diet that's it and according to ayurveda try pranayam its an lung exercise which help to keep our lung strong and heathy :follow what I said and you will definitely see results😊

  19. Have someone with asthma tried to smoke yet? Or a smoke allergicer lol. I have them both, I am also allergic to some food and all fur animals. Thats how lucky I got

    Edit: I haven't tried to smoke if someone thought that, I am 14.

  20. Guys i have ashma too. Had i think. When i was little i had soo much attacks. I had weeks in hospital. Then i started swimming.
    I did it for 4 years! 2 year everyday and 2 year 2 days per week. It was not hard for me but i kept my medicine with me…
    Today am 13 and i am like a normal person. I can run fast or just climb a mountain.
    You can fight against ashma!
    Just swim! Oh and try to sleep with theese salt+air dispenser things. Also visit salty places for humans with ashma.
    God help u all!

  21. Just wondering if inhalers are necessary for all people with asthma, cuz I have childhood asthma which i expected to be gone alr, however watching this video made me realize that I had a few asthma attacks the past few years as I match my symptoms, just that I am able to recover from the attacks after a while (but I felt terrible then)… wondering if I need to get an inhaler just in case

  22. im from philippines and im playing with my friends in my school and im stat to cough and i put my hand in a chest my chest is faster and my mom gives me medicine and im go to hospital

  23. I use to have athsma also i was diagnosed with it by a doctor but then after a athsma attack at the age of seven it said bye and i never had to deal with it since 🙂

  24. I feel so bad for people with Asthma and Anxiety or always have Panic Attacks and have Asthma. Asthma is beyond horrible but that's gotta be so freaking terrible.

  25. A stop asthma a natural way is to inhale deeply through the nose. This pulls the lips together and this keeps lung airways open by reflex.This stops asthma. Google for gv26.important. This reflex js also necessary for kissing. Keep a stiff upper lip!

  26. Dust is the worst direct trigger for me; cold weather is the worst indirect trigger in that although it doesn't give me breathing problems by itself, but the cold air is drier and makes me more susceptible to cigarette smoke, tightening of chest after walking fast or running outdoors etc

  27. Boii in my school I can’t breath because all the girls have perfume with them. And then they spray it everywhere.

  28. Who else has asthma reading this? I do! I honestly really hate it when people are like, I tHinK i HaVe asThMa ToO. When they find out i have it and they run with me. Like, DO U KNOW HOW IT FEELS. The worse thing is, ik for a FACT they dont have it(some ppl) Does this only happen to meh tho?

  29. I have asma and I asked mom how long I had it and she said since I was 3 but but last time I was cuffing and I sounded like a donkey dieing

  30. asthma freaking sucks i stopped breathing at school and didn't have my inhaler i get mine from anxiety, excersise, colds, and dust, can't wait for my last one 😔😒

  31. but what i like to do is breathe in through my nose and breathe out through my mouth but sometimes that doesn't work bc i have severe asthma that i get rly easily and when i get it it's rly bad

  32. but the smokers can we just talk about them i was just in paris and they smoke everywhere so when ppl do that around me i have to move but u shouldn't just use the inhaler itself and use the spacer bc 90% of the medicine gets stuck in ur throat that way i got mine from when i was sick and i was sleeping with my cat

  33. BAD NEWS – I HAVE ASTHMA TOO. CHRONIC ASTHMA! My chance of dying of a severe asthma attack – increased from 50.4 percent to 92.4 percent!!!!!!!!!!!

  34. My asthma was already really bad. Ive had a cold and i’ve had constant asthma attacks both day and night all the time. Infact, im struggling to breathe right now

  35. I was born with asthma and I almost died several times when I was an infant or a year old maybe even 5?! It’s so annoying beacause I cant eat anything cold for an example ice cream or coke

  36. So I had already figured I had asthma for a long time but I finally got treatment last year. So this is what breathing feels like😂🌬️💨

  37. The real gem here is the ability to build a lesson around a TedEd talk. Click on the "View full lesson" link to investigate this option.

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