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Asthma affects the body by limiting the flow of air into the lungs. When certain substances trigger an asthma attack, cholinergic receptors in the airways respond by tightening the muscles. This process is called bronchoconstriction. It triggers a sequence of reactions in the body, which contributes to increased inflammation and mucus secretions.
An asthma attack -- or an asthma exacerbation -- can be very frightening. You may cough, have difficulty breathing, or feel a shortness of breath. As you breathe out, you may hear a wheezing or whistling sound which may go away if your airway becomes more constricted. Asthma attacks may result in people feeling fatigued and disoriented, and may even be life-threatening. If you see someone having an asthma attack and their skin begins to turn blue, you need to get them to the emergency room immediately. This is a sign that their oxygen supply is seriously depleted. With proper treatment, however, asthma is a reversible and manageable condition.
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