Asthma attacks

Asthma can make breathing difficult, as it causes swelling of the airways in the lungs. Oftentimes, the condition triggers wheezing, coughing and shortness of breath. In the U.K., asthma is one of the most common chronic conditions among children and affects 1 in 12 adults.

A child blows bubbles.

While there is no cure for asthma, symptoms can be treated, says John Costello, M.D., a pulmonologist at Mayo Clinic Healthcare located in London.

Watch Dr. Costello discuss asthma and treatments.

Joel Streed, moderator: Max loves running around with his siblings. But sometimes it's too much. Max has asthma.

John Costello, M.D., Pulmonology Consultant, Mayo Clinic Healthcare London: "The pathology of asthma is like the airway is narrow. They get inflamed. You get more mucus formed because the body responds to infection by making mucus because mucus carries infection away."

Max: "I used my inhaler to help me breathe better."

John Costello, M.D.: Dr. Costello "Inhaled corticosteroids are a cornerstone of the treatment."

And nights for those with asthma can be difficult.

"Bad asthma is almost always worse during the night for reasons that are not fully explained. Cough, wheeze and breathlessness are very often worse during the night, over recurrent nights."

Joel Streed: Dr. John Costello says inhalation therapy is the treatment of choice, though patients who have severe asthma may require corticosteroids that are given orally or intravenously.

John Costello, M.D.: "And if the patient's not responding, then admission to the hospital (is needed) to make sure that these medicines are administered efficiently."

Joel Streed: As for Max, Dr. Costello offers some good news.

John Costello, M.D.: "When progressing from childhood into adult life, asthma very often gets better in the early teens."

Joel Streed: For the Mayo Clinic News Network, I'm Joel Streed.