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Your Child's Asthma: What Happens in the Lungs 

Child's head and torso showing upper and lower respiratory tracts.When lungs are healthy, breathing is easy. With each breath, air goes down the windpipe (trachea) into the lungs. There, it flows through airways (bronchial tubes). The airways also make mucus to trap and help get rid of any particles that are breathed in. Muscles that wrap around the airways help with breathing. Air is breathed out through the same airways.

How asthma affects the lungs

  • With asthma, the airways are inflamed. The lining of the airways swells. Muscles around the airways may be tight. Air has to go through a narrower tube. Inflammation makes airways oversensitive to things in the air that are breathed in.

  • The inflammation that is present with asthma makes the airways oversensistive to things that are breathed in.

  • The airways can become even more swollen. The muscles around the airways tighten. More mucus forms. All of this narrows the airways even more. This causes breathing trouble—an asthma flare-up.

Normal bronchiole, a tightened bronchiole with asthma, and constricted bronchiole with excess mucus during asthma flareup.

Online Medical Reviewer: Holloway, Beth, RN, M.Ed.
Online Medical Reviewer: Images reviewed by Staywell medical art team
Online Medical Reviewer: MMI board-certified, academically-affiliated clinician
Last Review Date: 6/17/2014
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