What causes asthma?

There is no definite answer as to why it happens


There is no definite answer to the question of what causes asthma. Factors such as genetics, gender, pollution and weight have been suggested as possible causes but there is not enough evidence to support any of these claims. However, there are certain risk factors that increase your likelihood of developing asthma.


Am I at risk of developing Asthma?

Having an allergy such as eczema, hay fever or a food allergy means you are more susceptible to developing asthma. If you are allergic to things like dust, pets, mould or fungi this also increases your risk of suffering from asthma as these are common triggers for people with the condition.

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Genetics also play a factor, if there is a family history of asthma or atopic conditions (allergies) then you are more likely to develop it.

If you were born prematurely, at a low birth weight or if your mother smoked during pregnancy then you are also at risk of developing asthma. This is also true if you had bronchiolitis as a child.


What triggers Asthma?

While the above risk factors are something you can’t control, asthma symptoms usually occur in response to a trigger. Common triggers include:


It may not be practical to avoid all possible triggers but if you know you have an allergy to pet hair for example, then this is something you can control. Limiting your exposure to dust, smoking and damp is advisable if you have developed symptoms of asthma.


How do I know if I have Asthma?

The symptoms of asthma include breathlessness, tightness in the chest, coughing and wheezing. During an acute attack (known as an asthma attack) these symptoms escalate to the point of being too breathless to speak, eat or sleep. Children often complain of a stomach ache alongside these more noticeable symptoms.

You should speak to a doctor if you experience these symptoms. Asthma is a serious condition but with proper management, you can prevent asthma attacks from occurring and relieve discomfort with the right inhaler. Dr Felix is available for a short consultation if you are concerned you might have asthma.


Can my job cause Asthma?

If you develop asthma as a result of your work, this is called occupational asthma. This often occurs in jobs where you are exposed to hazardous substances, large amounts of dust or something you may be allergic to (such as animals). Jobs that involve working with chemicals, paint, food substances like flour, wood, animals, latex or fumes provide a higher risk of developing asthma.

If you notice your symptoms are worse while you are at work and you haven’t experienced asthma before then you may have occupational asthma. Discussing your symptoms with your doctor can help you to determine whether or not this is the case.


Are there different types of Asthma?

While asthma is the general term for this respiratory condition, there are a number of different types that are linked to specific triggers. These include:


  • Allergic Asthma- when asthma occurs in response to an allergy

  • Adult-onset Asthma- developing asthma as an adult

  • Exercise-induced Asthma- where symptoms flare up during or after exercise

  • Cough-variant Asthma- a milder form of asthma where coughing is the only symptom

  • Nighttime (nocturnal) Asthma- when symptoms occur, or get worse, at night

  • Occupational Asthma- developing asthma as a result of your job

  • Seasonal Asthma- When symptoms occur at certain times of the year

Every form of asthma involves an inflammation of the airways and needs to be treated with the appropriate medications. This is why it’s important to be aware of your symptoms and when they occur so that you and your doctor can manage your asthma correctly.


Can you get Asthma as an adult?

It’s a common misconception to think that you can only develop asthma as a child. The condition can occur at any age for a number of reasons so it’s important to take your symptoms seriously if you think you might have asthma.

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