Control your asthma and breathe with ease. Asthma is a chronic condition that occurs when the bronchial tubes (the lungs’ main air passages) become inflamed. The bronchial wall muscles tighten, producing excess mucus and causing the airways to narrow. This constriction causes conditions ranging from minor wheezing to severely labored breathing.

Though asthma is not typically considered a life-threatening lung disease, each year, nearly 500,000 Americans are hospitalized for asthma-related conditions and more than 4,200 die. Recognizing warning signs and treating symptoms early can help control your asthma and prevent it from getting worse.

You can help better manage asthma by limiting your exposure to environmental factors that aggravate the condition.  Second-hand smoke is just as—if not more—devastating to people with asthma, but affects them slowly. Tobacco smoke contains nearly 400 toxic substances and carcinogens that irritate air passages but do not necessarily cause coughing or wheezing during exposure. It is particularly detrimental for children with asthma when an adult smokes in the home.

See your doctor if you think you have asthma. Signs include wheezing, labored breathing, chest pain or tightness, and coughing without any other symptoms.

If you’ve been diagnosed with asthma, ask your doctor how to manage your condition. Together, you and your doctor can develop a plan to help control your symptoms and prevent attacks. If your prescribed medication does not alleviate your symptoms, contact your doctor immediately.

Asthma should not limit your activities or cause depression. You can still live an active life if your asthma is controlled by carefully following your doctor’s treatment plan. It’s also important to avoid certain triggers, such as smoke, dust, or mold. Once you understand how to manage your condition, you can breathe with greater ease.