How an asthma attack occurs

By: Bupa Health UK

This animation will show what happens in the lungs during an asthma attack and how a reliever inhaler works to treat it. Click the navigation arrows below the animation screen to play, pause, rewind or fast-forward the animation. This animation contains sound. Air (oxygen) is taken in through the mouth and nose.

It then passes through the trachea to the bronchi. Asthma is a condition where the airways become irritated and inflamed. The bronchi are large tubes which are found in the lungs. Air flows through these tubes. The bronchi branch and narrow into tubes called bronchioles. The bronchioles continue to branch and end with tiny air sacs called alveoli. In healthy lungs, oxygen is taken into the body through the bronchi and passes into the blood via the alveoli. If you have an asthma attack you may start wheezing, your chest may feel tight and you may be breathless.

The muscles in the walls of the airways tighten and the inner surface swells, causing the airways to narrow. An asthma attack can be triggered by exercise or an allergy for example, both of which can irritate the airways. When the airways narrow it's harder to breathe. Reliever inhalers are used to widen the airways so you can breathe more easily if you have an asthma attack. The inhaler contains a gas which propels the medicine into the airways so that the muscle walls relax and the airways open up. When the airways widen it's easier to breathe.

This is the end of the animation. Click on the animation screen to watch it again.

How an asthma attack occurs

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