Maryland Asthma Program

Asthma is a life threatening, chronic inflammatory disease of the airway that affects an individual’s ability to breathe.
Asthma can be managed but not cured. Proper management includes avoiding triggers that may cause an asthma episode and taking medicines as prescribed by a health care provider. Persons with asthma have difficulty breathing because their breathing tubes (called Bronchi and Bronchioles) close and the muscles lining the breathing tubes tighten. Controller or “maintenance” medications are used daily to prevent asthma symptoms or treat episodes. These medicines relax the lung muscles and reduce inflammation or swelling in the lungs.
When a person has asthma, their lungs overreact to certain things, known as triggers. If a person with asthma is exposed to one of their triggers, then the lungs respond. The muscles surrounding the breathing tubes (called Bronchi and Bronchioles) squeeze these tubes. This makes the lungs feel tight and makes it hard to breathe. Quick relief medicines relax these muscles. Quick Relief or “rescue” medicines are used as needed during an asthma episode. These medicines work fast to make you feel better quickly. But, quick relief medicines are only a quick fix; they do not prevent an asthma episode.

Common triggers of an asthma episode are:

  • Chalk dust
  • Cigarette smoke
  • Colds/Flu
  • Dust/Dust mites
  • Exercise
  • Mold
  • Ozone alert days
  • Pests and roaches
  • Pets
  • Plants, flowers, pollen, or cut grass
  • Strong odors, such as perfume or cleaning products
  • Sudden temperature change
  • Wood smoke
Symptoms most often occur when a person with asthma is exposed to triggers, or if their asthma in not being managed correctly.

Before or early in an asthma episode, symptoms may include:

  • Itchy nose
  • Scratchy throat
  • Symptoms of a cold, or
  • Coughing

Mild asthma symptoms may include:

  • Coughing
  • Recurrent breathing difficulty
  • Chest tightness, or
  • Wheezing

Dangerous asthma symptoms may include:

  • Worsening wheezing
  • Hard and fast breathing
  • Wide-open nose
  • Ribs visibly expanding and contracting
  • Blue or gray lips
  • Blue or gray fingernails, or
  • Trouble walking and talking


Is your asthma under control?

  • Do you take quick relief medication more than two times a week?
  • Do you wake up from asthma symptoms more than two times a month?
  • Do you refill your quick relief medication more than two times per year?
If you answered “YES” to any of these questions your asthma may not be under control. You should contact your health care provider.

To learn more about asthma, go to: