Asthma is a chronic respiratory condition makes your bronchial tubes (airways of the lungs) swell up, become narrow and triggers respiratory distress. There are several causes and triggers of asthma and it is vital that you know what they are so that you can keep track of them to prevent asthma attacks.
Right at the start, we need to distinguish between the causes and triggers. Causes refer to the underlying factors and reasons that lead to asthma. Triggers mean the conditions that aggravate or usher in an asthma attack. Knowledge of both causes and triggers will help you manage your asthma.
What are the commonest asthma causes?
Here are some common asthma causes-
1. It runs in the family
If someone you are related to by blood has asthma, then you might be born with a predisposition to asthma. Even if a family member is prone to allergies or hay fever, it could increase your chances of getting asthma.
2. Childhood allergies can become asthma
Children who are susceptible to allergies are more likely to develop asthma than other children. This is one of the major childhood asthma causes.
3. Being born prematurely
Being born before 37 weeks makes asthma very likely in a child especially if a ventilator was used to help the baby breathe. Being born prematurely means, the lungs had not developed early and the immune system is not as strong as it should be.
Another cause of asthma is a low birth weight (even if the child is born on or a little after the due date).
This disorder is caused by a virus and like asthma, it too causes inflammation of both the airways and the lungs, which makes breathing laboured. Frequent episodes of bronchiolitis can eventually cause asthma.
Once a child develops asthma it lasts life long. But sometimes adults who did not have asthma as a child can contract this respiratory illness. This is called adult-onset asthma and doctors have not been able to pinpoint what causes it. But they have identified the following risk factors – exposure to pollen, mould, chemicals, or cigarette smoke.
Some women contract asthma during their menopause and it results from a drastic hormonal change.
What are the triggers of asthma?
Asthma triggers bring on sudden breathing difficulty in people (both adults and children) or cause a flare-up of asthma symptoms.
Allergies are one of the chief causes of asthma attacks. Allergens are those substances that induce an allergic reaction in your body when your immune system tries to fight back against the alien objects that can cause harm. Allergens are usually present in the air you breathe in. You should try to avoid these known asthma-triggering allergens –
- Dust mites
- Mould particles
- Excreta left behind by rodents or cockroaches
- Fur shed by your pet dog or cat
2. Irritants present in the air
Irritants are different from allergens. They do not cause an allergic reaction but they will still trigger an asthma episode because they agitate the sensitive airways of a person with asthma. Here are some dangerous irritants –
- Pollutants of the air like smog, nitrogen dioxide, ozone, particulate matter etc
- Cigarette smoke
- Gases and fumes that emanate during cooking especially during grilling
- Overpowering odours from paint, petrol or perfumes
These are also the causes of asthma in adults.
3. Exposure at the workplace
Your line of work could expose you to dust, chemicals, particles of grains, wood or similar irritants and continued exposure to them could bring about an asthma attack. This is called ‘occupational asthma’.
4. Respiratory Problems
If you contract respiratory infections, it may in turn trigger an asthma attack. Try not to catch a –
- Common cough and cold
- Infection of the sinuses
5. Working out
Exercise makes you breathe more rapidly. And it is a common asthma trigger. Physical activity can constrict the bronchial tubes and the symptoms will manifest within minutes of exercising. This is called exercise-induced asthma attack. You have to learn to what extent you can work out without aggravating your asthma so that you do not have to forgo exercise, which is vital to your health.
6. The weather
Some types of weather can make asthma worse. Bitter cold winds, high humidity and moist clammy weather can trigger an asthma attack.
7. Strong emotions
Not being able to get a grip on your emotions can summon an asthma attack. When you feel intense emotions, your heart rate and breathing shoot up. And if your lungs are not able to cope with the change, then you will start wheezing and gasping for breath.
The emotions and resultant actions you should try to tone down are –
8. Certain medicines
Some medicines can trigger asthma attacks. In such cases, doctors will prescribe substitute medicines. Here are the drugs that have the potential to cause asthma symptoms to show up –
- Aspirin and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
- Beta-blockers (used in medicines to lower hypertension)
9. Health conditions
Certain health conditions will not only trigger but compound your asthma-
- Obstruct sleep apnea
- Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
- Gastroesophageal reflux disease
- Polyps of the nose
If you are pregnant then you should take special care against asthma.
The causes and triggers of asthma vary from one person to the next. From your experience, you can identify which asthma causes trigger an attack. Understanding your condition is instrumental in efficiently managing your asthma.