If you have asthma, you know the dreaded choking sensation, the faintness, the anxiety. It's as if someone made you run around the block, then pinched your nose shut and forced you to breathe through a straw. And you know all too well that once an asthma attack starts, it won't go away by itself. However, there are some simple steps you can take to reduce the likelihood of an asthma attack. After a some background information on asthma, we will show you a variety of ways to asthma-proof your home and lifestyle. 

Some 20 million Americans suffer from asthma. While no two people with asthma are alike in the subtle characteristics of their condition, they do have one thing in common: They have trouble breathing properly because of narrowing or blockage of the airways in their lungs. Their lungs are inflamed and supersensitive; they're easily provoked into constriction by a wide variety of outside factors, called triggers, that do not generally cause problems for people without the disease.

The tendency to develop asthma is inherited, and it is more common among people who have allergies. Indeed, there are two forms of asthma, allergic asthma and nonallergic asthma, with the allergic form being more common. Allergic asthma develops in people who have allergies, and the same substances (called allergens) that provoke their allergy symptoms also trigger their asthma symptoms. Both the allergy and asthma symptoms are the product of an overreaction by the immune system. Common triggers include dust mites, pollen, mold, and pet dander.

In nonallergic asthma, on the other hand, the triggers that irritate the lungs and bring on asthma symptoms have nothing to do with allergies or the immune system. This type of asthma can be sparked by dry air, cold weather, exercise, smoke (including the second hand variety), strong perfume, stressful situations, intense emotions, even laughing.

The typical symptoms of allergic and nonallergic asthma are similar. The symptoms may occur immediately following contact with a trigger or may be delayed, and their severity varies among individual asthma sufferers.

While there is no cure for asthma, the good news is that asthma, whether mild, moderate, or severe, allergic or nonallergic, can be managed. Doctors who specialize in treating asthma can be very helpful. Every patient with asthma should see a doctor to be sure another cause of wheezing is not present and, if asthma is diagnosed, to develop a therapeutic program for managing the disorder.

In addition to working with your doctor, you can take measures to help control your asthma. The key is to track down your triggers and, as completely as possible, eliminate them from your life. In short, you can often help counter an asthma attack before it happens.

Keep reading for our valuable tips on how to stop asthma before it starts.