What Happens to the Body During an Asthma Attack

Asthma TED Chris Gaw

In a breathtaking Ted Ed lesson animated by Michael Papanicolaou and Alexandros Kimonides, pediatric research student Christopher E. Gaw explains what triggers asthma, the treatments available to treat asthma, the long-term effects of asthma and what happens within the body during an asthma attack.

If an asthmatic is exposed to a trigger, the smooth rings of muscle that circle the small airways in their lungs contract and become narrow. Simultaneously, the trigger worsens inflammation, causing the mucosal lining to become more swollen and secrete more mucus. Under normal conditions, the body uses this mucus to trap and clear particles, like pollen or dust, but during an asthma attack, it blocks the narrowed airways, making it even harder to breathe. …And the wheezing noise? That happens because as the airways constrict, air whistles as it passes through the narrowed space.

Lori Dorn
Lori Dorn

Lori is a Laughing Squid Contributing Editor based in New York City who has been writing blog posts for over a decade. She also enjoys making jewelry, playing guitar, taking photos and mixing craft cocktails.