a special program of the National Emergency Medicine Association (NEMA) 

Week 619.5

Guest Chris Fanta, Clinical Director, Partners Asthma Ctr. Boston, MA

Topic Asthma education & treatment

Host/Producer Steve Girard

NEMA Understanding asthma is the first step to keeping it under control. This is Dr. Chris Fanta, of the Partners Asthma Center in Boston...

FANTA I think the best way to understand asthma is as abnormal sensitivity of the bronchial tubes. The asthma leaves the airways, the air passageways of the lungs, vulnerable to stimulation from triggers in the world around... whether they're allergic triggers or irritants...and when breathed into the lungs, the bronchial tubes will narrow, making it difficult getting air in and out of the lungs. And so persons experience cough and wheeze, and a tightness in the chest, and shortness of breath....symptoms reflecting narrowing of the bronchial tubes. And what's unique about asthma is that persistent sensitivity of the bronchial tubes. At one moment the airways are perfectly normal, wide open. Air passes freely. And in another moment, stimulated by something breathed in, triggering narrowing of the airways, the person has difficulty breathing, maybe rushed to the emergency room, gasping for air. So, the vulnerability, or the sensitivity of the bronchial tubes is persistent, it's chronic...but intermittently, the airways may be caused to narrow.

NEMA About 5 thousand Americans die of asthma each year. If you think you have asthma, talk with your doctor. I'm Steve Girard at The Heart of the Matter.