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Asthma Causes & Triggers – What Should You Know About It?

By Faraz khan +2 more

Asthma is a chronic respiratory condition that 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 you must 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 Should You Know About Asthma Causes & Triggers? - PharmEasy

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 have 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).

4. Bronchiolitis

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 lifelong. 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, mold, 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.

  1. Allergies

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 –

  • Pollen
  • Dust mites
  •   Mold 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 –

  • Flu
  • Common cough and cold
  •   Infection of the sinuses
  •   Pneumonia

  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 an 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.

Environmental control is vital if one wants to avoid recurrent attacks. Allergen avoidance can significantly improve the quality of life. This means avoiding tobacco, dust mites, animals, and pollen.

Dr. M.G. Kartheeka, MBBS, MD

  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.

Asthma and bronchitis are commonly confused as they both present with almost similar symptoms and are inflammatory conditions of the airways. Bronchodilators and intermittent steroids help to relieve symptoms in both conditions.

Dr. Ashish Bajaj, M.B.B.S., M.D.

  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 –

  • Anger
  • Excitement
  • Fear
  • Panic
  • Sobbing
  • Laughing
  • Yelling

  8. Certain medicines

Some medicines can trigger asthma attacks. In such cases, doctors will prescribe substitute medicines.  

  9. Health conditions

Certain health conditions will not only trigger but compound your asthma-

  • Obstruct sleep apnea
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
  • Gastroesophageal reflux disease
  • Rhinitis
  • Sinusitis
  • Obesity
  • 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 another. From your experience, you can identify which asthma causes an attack. Understanding your condition is instrumental in efficiently managing your asthma.

Disclaimer: The information provided here is for educational/awareness purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for medical treatment by a healthcare professional and should not be relied upon to diagnose or treat any medical condition. The reader should consult a registered medical practitioner to determine the appropriateness of the information and before consuming any medication. PharmEasy does not provide any guarantee or warranty (express or implied) regarding the accuracy, adequacy, completeness, legality, reliability or usefulness of the information; and disclaims any liability arising thereof.

Links and product recommendations in the information provided here are advertisements of third-party products available on the website. PharmEasy does not make any representation on the accuracy or suitability of such products/services. Advertisements do not influence the editorial decisions or content. The information in this blog is subject to change without notice. The authors and administrators reserve the right to modify, add, or remove content without notification. It is your responsibility to review this disclaimer regularly for any changes.


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