What Is Asthma?
 How Do You Know if You Have Asthma?
 How Did You Get Asthma?

Wow! This is your first case as an Asthma Agent. So what's your goal? To "infiltrate" (in-fill-trate) the mystery of asthma. Infiltrate is spy talk for clearing through all the confusing mumbo-jumbo you hear from grown ups, so you can understand what asthma is all about.

Your Asthma Agent file tells you that 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

These feelings are called symptoms, and they're not too much fun. Sometimes you might even find them a little scary. But don't worry, your Asthma Agent training will teach you everything you need to know to make the symptoms go away fast and keep them under control.

Lots of things can cause symptoms:

  • Smelly stuff, like smoke or pollution.
  • Invisible stuff, like dust and cold air.
  • Gross stuff, like mould 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.

All these things are called triggers. When you breathe in these triggers, you begin to feel the symptoms - the coughing, the wheezing, or the tight chest - of asthma. So you don't know what triggers your asthma! Hmmm, sounds like you have another case to solve.

The Asthma Agent's secret weapon

Now that you know what asthma is, how do you control it? Well, that's where your secret weapon comes in.

As an asthma agent, you'll be briefed in the techniques of using a very special, high-tech Asthma Agent tool: your puffer. Your puffer contains the medication that keeps your airways clear. If you have asthma, you'll probably need two types of medication:

  • Reliever medication (sometimes called your rescue medication), and
  • Controller medication (sometimes called your preventer medication)

Your reliever medication usually comes in a blue puffer. You can take your reliever medication when you start to feel the symptoms of asthma. Your reliever medication helps make your asthma symptoms go away fast so you can start to breathe better again.

Your controller medication come in many colours (orange, brown or even purple puffers). 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.

Your puffers are the most important Asthma Agent tool you have. Learning how to use them properly will be one of your next cases. Just remember: You control the puffer. The medication in the puffer 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. Some of them might even be Asthma Agents too. Maybe you'll meet them some day...

You've just been handed a new case file...

Good work so far, Agent! Here's a couple more cases you'll need to solve so you'll be an asthma expert:

Case 1. How do you know if you have asthma? To solve this case, find out how you can tell if you have asthma.

Case 2. How did you get asthma? To solve this case, find out how you got asthma.

Ask the Expert. Got an asthma question? Ask an asthma ace.
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