Asthma, one of the most common lung diseases, affects 300 million individuals around the world today. (Global Initiative for Asthma, 2012) However, what exactly is this ailment, which affects so many people? Asthma is a prolonged disease that constricts the airways in the lungs. “There are air-conducting passageways: left bronchus and right bronchus and many small air passageways they branch into, the bronchioles, which deliver air to the lungs.” (Krogh, 2011, p. 584) While normal functionality of the lungs carries oxygen through these passageways, during an asthma attack, the bronchioles become inflamed and constrict the flow of oxygen. There are many risk factors for asthma; however, the most common is exposure to allergens.
Allergic asthma is one of the most prominent forms of asthma. Dust mites, animal fur, pollens, air pollutants, mold, tobacco smoke, etc. can all trigger allergic reactions in some people. These various allergic reactions can also lead to the development of asthma or cause an asthma attack in people who already have asthma. While not all individuals that have allergies necessarily develop asthma, “nearly half of adults with asthma have an allergy-related condition, which, in most cases developed first in childhood.” (Harvey & Zieve, 2012)
Allergens can prompt asthma attacks due to the immune system fighting off what it believes is an attack on the body. The immune system’s job is to protect the body from bacteria and viruses. It does this by starting a fight with bacteria, infection, and viruses using mast cells. Mast cells are white blood cells made up of granules contain histamine. During the beginning stages of fighting off the attack, these mast cells release the histamine. The released histamine causes inflammation, which in turn helps with blood vessel dilation and absorbency, allowing other cells to move to the affected area. (Krogh, 2011, p. 555) When the immune system comes across an allergen, it believes it is one of these bacteria and/or viruses attacking the body and goes about fighting it in the same way. The release of histamine causes the smooth muscles around the bronchioles to constrict and while, at the same time, causing swelling in the bronchioles themselves. Due to the various asthmatic triggers in the air, allergic asthma, alarmingly, continues to rise.
Reports of asthma, specifically allergic asthma, are substantially higher today than they were in the 1900s. This may be due to that fact that there is substantially more air pollution today than in the 1900s. Air pollution, the act of placing particulates or organisms into the atmosphere, has always existed to some degree through various means, such as wild fires, volcanic eruptions, etc. However, with the rise in the development of urban areas, air-born pollutants continue to grow. From factory byproducts to carbon monoxide from automobiles, air pollution continues to place particles into the air. These particles can cause...