In asthma, the mucous membranes of the respiratory tract undergo inflammatory changes. This makes them hypersensitive, i.e. they can be react to the slightest, seemingly innocuous stimuli; the mucous membrane swells, and the production of mucous increases.
The muscles in the bronchial walls also contract.
The respiratory tract narrows, thereby resulting in the typical symptoms of asthma such as:
Coughing, especially at night or early in the morning
Expectoration of thick mucous
Tightness in the chest
Wheezing noises – especially when exhaling
The triggers of asthma
Depending on the type of asthma, different stimuli can trigger symptoms. A distinction is made between allergic asthma, non-allergic asthma, and mixed forms.
Allergic asthma occurs frequently in children and adolescents who also suffer from hay fever or dermatitis. Asthma attacks are triggered by allergens such as pollen, animal hair, dust mites, mould spores, or food (e.g. nuts). Some of these allergens are amplified at certain times of year. It is therefore common to speak of seasonal asthma.
In the case of non-allergic asthma, patients react to non-specific stimuli. Triggers of asthma symptoms can include acute infections, physical exertion, stress, cold or arid conditions, fog, fumes, cigarette smoke, industrial dust, and vapours.
Mixed forms often develop from allergic asthma in the presence of non-allergy-related triggers. Both allergens and non-specific stimuli can thus trigger asthmatic symptoms.