What is Asthma?

Asthma is an ongoing condition which affects a person’s lungs and their ability to breathe. When someone has an asthma attack, the airways in the lungs can become inflamed and narrowed, making it difficult for the person to breathe properly. Symptoms of an attack include wheezing, breathlessness, tightness in the chest, and coughing. Severe asthma attacks can become fatal.

Asthma is the most common long-term disease of children, but adults can have asthma too.

Asthma in New Hampshire

For 2020, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that the state of New Hampshire had among the highest prevalence of adult asthma in the country, affecting 11.5% of the adult population and 7.2% of children. In 2016, 13.5% of adults with asthma in New Hampshire were told by their healthcare providers that their condition was caused by workplace factors.

Asthma and tobacco

Living with a chronic lung disease like asthma makes your lungs more sensitive to tobacco smoke, whether you’re smoking or exposed to it secondhand. Smoke can destroy lung tissue and trigger other changes in your lungs, which may cause asthma symptoms and lead to more frequent attacks, increasing your risk for more severe diseases, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Vaping is also shown to increase risk of both asthma and COPD.

Secondhand smoke is a combination of the smoke that comes from the end of a burning cigarette and the smoke which is exhaled by those who smoke. Over 7,000 chemicals can be found in secondhand smoke, hundreds which are considered toxic. Around 70 of these toxins are known to cause cancer.

Children with asthma who are exposed to secondhand smoke are more likely to have more frequent and more serious asthma attacks. According to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, more than 40% of children who go to the emergency room for asthma live with smokers.

Asthma can be controlled. Everyone with asthma should follow these steps to help control their asthma:

  1. Complete an Asthma Action Plan with Your Doctor and Follow It
  2. Know Your Medications
  3. Know Your Asthma Triggers and Avoid Them
  4. Get a Flu Shot
  5. Avoid All Tobacco Smoke

To learn more, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Tips from Former Smokers page: Asthma and Secondhand Smoke.

Jessica’s son, Aden, was 3 years old when he was diagnosed with asthma. Although Jessica never smoked, many of Aden’s attacks were triggered by exposure to secondhand smoke. (Audio transcript)
Watch more Tips from Former Smokers videos. | Learn more about secondhand smoke.

Helpful Links
AsthmaNowNH – Local information and resources for everyone with an interest in asthma.

BreatheNH – Local resources, questions and answers, and publications for individuals looking for asthma information.

NH Department of Health & Human Services: The State’s Asthma Control Program is dedicated to reducing the burden of asthma in New Hampshire. Resources include:

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