Have you ever wondered what asthma really is or how you get it?

Now you can ask! This week, PacificSource Medical Director Dr. Justin Montoya and PacificSource Health Management Nurse Jen Clason are gearing up to answer your questions for our first AMA (Ask Me Anything) video!

First, we asked a few questions.

To give you an idea of what asthma is, we asked Dr. Montoya and Jen some basic questions.

What is asthma?

Jen: Asthma is a disease that affects a person’s lungs. Inflammation in the lungs causes narrowing of the airways, which makes it hard for a person to get the air that they need into their lungs.

Justin: That’s right. The airways become narrowed because of swelling, mucous, and constriction of the muscles that line the airway. Firstly, there is swelling in the lining of the airways. Secondly, there are small muscles that surround the airway that may constrict or tighten, also causing the airway to narrow. Asthma is treated by medications that address these two factors.

How does one get asthma?

Justin: There is no one cause of asthma. Asthma is thought to be caused by a combination of genetic and environmental factors. The genetics of asthma are variable in that there is not one specific gene that causes asthma.

Jen: People are also more likely to get asthma when they’re exposed to air pollution, chemical fumes, workplace pollutants, or allergens, like dust mites, pollen, or animal dander. Other factors can increase a person’s risk of developing asthma too—like obesity, their mom smoking while she was pregnant with them, or even having cockroaches in their home.

What are the general symptoms of asthma?

Justin: The most common symptoms include shortness of breath, wheezing, and coughing.

Jen: Someone who has asthma has it all the time, but might only feel the symptoms when something bothers their lungs. This is called an asthma attack.

How common is asthma?

Justin: According to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, there are 22 million people in the US with asthma, of which 6 million are children.

Jen: In fact, it’s the most common chronic disease in children.

What can one do to prevent asthma?

Jen: There’s really no way to entirely prevent asthma, but limiting our exposure to allergens and maintaining a healthy weight may help. People who are living with asthma can work with their doctor to learn how to cope with their day-to-day symptoms, identify things that may trigger an asthma attack for them, and make a step-by-step plan for what to do in the event of an asthma attack.

Justin: Some people need daily medication to prevent exacerbations while others only need occasional medication when it flares up. Understanding and avoiding triggers is critical in controlling asthma.

Now it’s your turn!

This is your opportunity to ask Justin and Jen questions about asthma. They will answer your questions on video, and we’ll post the video on this blog on Wednesday, May 24.

What kind of questions can I ask?

As the name implies, you can ask anything. Questions can range from serious to silly, but should generally relate to asthma.

So, how do I ask questions?

Scroll down to the comment section, and leave your question as a comment.


  1. If someone has an asthma attack whey they exercise, does this mean they can’t be physically active? What are the recommendations?


  2. I experienced allergy-induced asthma once a few years ago due to grass pollen, but after being treated with an inhaler (Advair), it never happened again. I know pollen counts have been as high or higher than that particular year, so I’m just curious why the condition hasn’t recurred.


  3. If asthma is so common and requires medicine, especially in an acute asthma attack, and this is nothing new, why does the cheapest emergency albuterol inhaler have a $50 copay?


  4. How do inhaler spacers work? I’ve never used one, but I’ve had a doc recommend that it might help with some of the side effects I sometimes have with the inhaler. I’ve also heard it can make the inhaler more effective. This seems contradictory; if more medicine is being inhaled, how would side effects be lessened?


  5. Members of my family that have been diagnosed with asthma (both pollen / allergen induced) and from birth use spacers differently. I hear that not using a spacer and using one’s inhaler by directly breathing in may not be the correct way of getting a dose of the medicine; Are spacers recommended at all times both for children and for adults?


  6. Can a child outgrow the condition? Can an adult who has never had a problem get it later in life? If a child can outgrow the condition, is it more apt to come back on them and is it more severe?


  7. Thanks for the questions, everyone! Questions for the video are now closed, but if you still have questions, please post them here and we’ll be sure Jen and Justin answer them in the comments. Have a great day! 🙂


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