Bronchial Asthma: Symptoms, Triggers, and More

Asthma is a chronic disease that affects your breathing. All types of asthma impact the tubes that move air in and out of your lungs, called bronchial tubes or bronchi. These tubes become swollen and inflamed in people with asthma, earning this condition its name.

This article will explore the different asthma types, what sets them apart, and how to manage them.

woman using inhaler

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Causes and Types of Asthma

An asthma diagnosis means you have chronic swelling and inflammation in the bronchioles. Also referred to as wheezing or bronchial asthma, this condition can run in families or be triggered by allergies and irritants.

There are different types of asthma, which are classified by the cause of the condition or what triggers symptoms.

Allergies and Bronchial Asthma

Allergies are a major trigger of bronchial asthma. Inhaling certain substances called allergens can trigger an allergic reaction, causing your airways to become irritated, inflamed, and swollen.

Swelling and inflammation narrow the opening that air passes through, making it more difficult to breathe. Wheezing sounds and coughing are common symptoms that can develop with an allergic asthma attack.

Many allergens can lead to an asthma attack. Food allergies and allergic skin reactions are linked to a higher risk of asthma.

Types of Asthma

Allergies aren't the only triggers for an asthma attack. Bronchial asthma develops in the bronchioles and includes nearly every type of asthma.

A more effective way to categorize asthma types is by cause or trigger. Common types of asthma besides allergic asthma include:

  • Allergic asthma: Triggered by an allergen or allergens
  • Nonallergic asthma: Triggered by inhaled irritants, chemicals, a respiratory infection, cold weather, or tobacco smoke
  • Occupational asthma: Caused by inhaled chemicals or industrial dust in the workplace
  • Exercise-induced asthma: Triggered by exercise and physical exertion, especially when the air is dry

Bronchial Asthma Triggers

Anyone can develop asthma, but it is most common in people who:

  • Have a family history of asthma
  • Had severe respiratory infections in childhood
  • Are affected by obesity
  • Use tobacco
  • Are exposed to irritants in the workplace
  • Live in areas with high levels of pollution
  • Have other allergic conditions like eczema or hay fever

When allergies trigger a bronchial asthma attack, specific culprits can vary from person to person. Some common allergens that trigger asthma attacks include:

Signs and Symptoms of Bronchial Asthma

If you have asthma, you may notice regular changes in your breathing that range from mild to severe. But when an asthma attack occurs, your symptoms can become severe quickly and may even require immediate medical treatment.

Some common signs and symptoms of bronchial asthma are:

Diagnosing Bronchial Asthma

Diagnosing asthma is a multistep process that begins with your healthcare provider reviewing your personal and family medical histories, going over your types of allergies (or doing an allergy test to identify any allergies), and performing a physical exam.

Allergy and immune system testing using blood or skin tests are standard, and in most cases, you will also undergo testing that evaluates your lung function and respiratory system.


Spirometry is a type of lung function test that measures the overall health of your lungs. This test requires you to breathe into a device with different strengths and at different rates. It measures how much air you can move in and out of your lungs with each breath and how easily air moves through your respiratory system.

Peak Expiratory Flow (PEF)

Peak expiratory flow (PEF) is another type of lung function test. This test measures how quickly you can force air out of your lungs after a full inhalation.

Peak flow testing is measured with a handheld device that can help your healthcare provider understand how much the space in your airways is limited by inflammation and can help you manage your asthma daily.

Fractional Exhaled Nitric Oxide (FeNO)

This test measures the level of nitric oxide in your breath when you exhale. High levels of nitric oxide can signal inflammation in your lungs. This test is done by breathing into a machine that will measure your nitric oxide levels.

Chest X-Ray

A chest X-ray can give your healthcare provider a look inside your lungs. While this test isn't beneficial for diagnosing asthma, chest X-rays can identify other problems affecting your breathing, like pneumonia or lung cancer.

Treating Bronchial Asthma

Bronchial asthma treatment includes avoiding triggers, maintenance medications, and treating flare-ups (occasions when symptoms worsen).

Knowing your triggers and working to avoid or manage them is vital, as this can help prevent severe asthma attacks. Daily maintenance medications are essential for prevention, as these medications help keep inflammation and swelling from developing in the bronchioles.

When these strategies are ineffective, a quick-acting medication (also called a rescue medication) can be used before or after an activity known to increase asthma symptoms. Short-acting inhaled bronchodilators (medications to relax your airways) and oral corticosteroids (medications to reduce lung inflammation) are examples of rescue medications.

If your asthma attack is severe, you may also require hospitalization for additional treatments like intravenous medications or supplemental oxygen.


Bronchial asthma is a term that is used interchangeably with asthma. All types of asthma affect the tubes that bring air in and out of your lungs (bronchioles). In all types of asthma, an allergen, irritant, or other condition causes these bronchioles to swell and limits air movement. Your healthcare provider can help you manage your asthma with daily control medications and treatments for flare-ups or asthma attacks.

A Word From Verywell

Asthma is a lifelong condition that impacts your breathing. All types of asthma affect the bronchi, earning this condition the nickname "bronchial asthma." If asthma runs in your family or if you experience wheezing and other breathing problems in certain environments or after activities, talk to your healthcare provider about your asthma risk and how to best manage your condition.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What is the difference between asthma and bronchial asthma?

    "Bronchial asthma" is just another name for asthma. All types of asthma affect your bronchial tubes.

  • What is the best treatment for bronchial asthma?

    Bronchial asthma is best treated by avoiding triggers and using maintenance medications to control inflammation. Asthma attacks are treated with rescue medications or direct medical care.

  • How long does bronchial asthma last?

    Bronchial asthma is a chronic condition. Once diagnosed, it is a health condition you will need to control for the rest of your life.

  • Is bronchial asthma serious?

    Bronchial asthma never goes away, and symptoms can range from mild to severe. If you experience difficulty breathing and your bronchioles are too swollen to pass air through, you may experience a medical emergency.

  • What are the three types of asthma?

    There are many types of asthma, but allergic asthma, nonallergic asthma, and exercise-induced asthma are among the most common.

10 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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By Rachael Zimlich, BSN, RN
Rachael is a freelance healthcare writer and critical care nurse based near Cleveland, Ohio.