How is asthma different from breathing problems due to a cold or allergies?

Asthma is more of a genetic disease affecting the lungs, whereas colds and allergies will just affect the sinuses. Watch David Kamrava, MD, of West Hills Hospital & Medical Center, explain more.
Asthma is a condition where the tiny sacs in the lungs (alveoli) that absorb air are essentially "pinched off." This constriction prevents oxygen from either entering or leaving the lungs efficiently. A similar condition can occur with colds or allergies, when breathing is affected by the extra mucus that develops. Because of the differences in the cause of the breathing problems, the treatment is quite different for asthma versus a cold or allergies.
Maoshing Ni, PhD, LAc
Geriatric Medicine
People who are having an asthma attack have real trouble taking a breath. Many people with stuffy noses from hay fever or colds say, "I can't breathe," but they retain the option of breathing through the mouth. Asthmatics, however, know what "I can't breathe" really means. Instead of their nasal passages, it is the bronchial tubes in their lungs that become swollen and clogged. Breathing can become frighteningly difficult. Asthma involves two conditions: (1) contraction of the small muscles surrounding the bronchial tubes and (2) swelling of the lining of those tubes.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.