What is Asthma?

Asthma is a lung disease, which makes it harder to breathe. A person with asthma has airways that sometimes constrict (become narrow) with swelling and excessive mucous.  As airways constrict, it gets harder to breathe.


Symptoms of Asthma

It is important to know and recognize asthma symptoms:

  • Cough
  • Wheezing
  • Out of Breath
  • Chest Tightness
  • Fatigue

Recognizing these symptoms and taking early action can prevent symptoms getting worse.


Asthma Triggers

An asthma trigger is something that causes asthma symptoms to start or worsen.  Different people respond to different triggers.  Knowing one’s asthma triggers can help to better control one’s asthma.

Common Triggers

  • Indoor:  Dust / dust mites, pet dander (skin flakes), rats or mice, cockroaches,  mold
  • Outdoor: Pollen, plants, flowers, grass, or trees, changes in weather or seasons
  • Irritants: Cigarette smoke, strong smells (like cleaning products or perfumes), air pollution or smog
  • Other:  Stress or worry, colds or sickness, exercise or play, food allergies, cold air

For more information on asthma management, click here or visit our Informational Materials page.


Asthma in Massachusetts

Asthma is a significant public health problem in the United States.  In 2005, over 22.2 million Americans currently had asthma (1 in 13 Americans), which includes approximately 8.9% of children and 7.2% of adults.  The prevalence (total cases including both new and old) of asthma has been on the rise since 1980.[1]

According to the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, in 2009, asthma rates in Massachusetts were some of the highest in the United States. They also found that:

  • In 2007, about 1 in 10 people in Massachusetts – 9.9% of adults and 10.3% children – currently had asthma (had asthma at the time of the study).

  • Adult asthma prevalence is on the rise. From 2000-2007, the prevalence of lifetime asthma (people who ever had asthma) rose 29.4% and current asthma rose 16.5% among adults in Massachusetts.

  • 75.7% of adults and 65.2% of children in Massachusetts with current asthma were categorized as having not well controlled or very poorly controlled asthma.

[1] The Massachusetts Department of Public Health’s Strategic Plan for Asthma in Massachusetts, May 2009

The American Lung Association will be hosting "Health and Medical Community Briefing on U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Clean Power Plan on Tuesday July 8th at 4:00pm. Follow this link to register:
Boston's Inspectional Services Department was honored at the National Healthy Homes Conference in Nashville last weekend with a Healthy Homes Champion Award for their proactive inspection work. Congratulations to everyone involved!! BHHSC applauds ISD for their continuing work to ensure everyone has a safe and healthy home! For more information on the proactive Rental Registration and Inspection Ordinance, go to ISD's website.
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