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How do you get asthma?

Asthma is a chronic respiratory disease caused by inflammation of the airways.  Common symptoms are wheezing, coughing, shortness of breath and chest tightness.  Asthma is believed to be caused by a combination of environmental and genetic factors.  Although you cannot control your genetic makeup, you can control some of the environmental factors that may cause you to develop asthma.

Asthma triggers include:

  • Allergens (e.g. animal dander, dust mites, etc.)
  • Chemical fumes (e.g. chlorine, ammonia, etc.)
  • Air pollution (e.g. second hand smoke, emissions from gas stoves, etc.)
  • Workplace exposures (e.g. latex, building materials, etc.)
  • Obesity

Medical studies on the prevalence of asthma have identified some interesting patterns.  The strongest risk factor for developing asthma is a history of atopic disease (e.g. eczema).  This increases the risk of both hay fever and asthma.

In children between 3-14, a positive skin test for allergies and an increase in immunoglobulin E increases the chance of having asthma.  In adults, the more allergens reacted to during a skin test, the higher the odds of having asthma.

Other patterns that increase the risk of developing asthma include:

  • Maternal smoking during and after pregnancy
  • Antibiotic use early in life
  • Presence of cockroaches in the home

You might be wondering about the reference above to obesity.  It is thought that respiratory function decreases due to the buildup of adipose tissue (fat) and the fact that fat supports the development of inflammation in the body.7   A study in Taiwan actually correlated asthma symptoms with each 20% increase in body mass index (BMI).  This should encourage all of us to maintain a healthy weight!

Asthma is a serious disease that can, in most cases, be treated.  Without proper treatment it can become deadly.  If you or a loved one have asthma symptoms that might be allergy related, you should seek professional medical advice from a Board Certified/Eligible Allergy and Asthma specialist.  

If you or a loved one have asthma, or you have symptoms that might be asthma related, you should seek professional medical advice from an asthma specialist. If you live in the State of Virginia, consider contacting Richmond Allergy and Asthma Specialists at 1-804-285-7420, or schedule an appointment online. Our specialists are Board Certified/Eligible, they accept referrals from other medical professionals, and the practice does have a certified vaccine laboratory onsite.

Get tested! Get treated! Get better!