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Top 5 Risk Factors for Asthma

Friday 22 October 2021
5 minute(s) read

Table of Contents

I. Asthma and the Lungs

II. Tobacco Smoke and the Airways

III. Allergic Asthma

IV. Occupational Risks for Asthma

V. The Link Between Weight and Asthma

VI. Family History of Respiratory Illnesses

Asthma and the Lungs

Your lungs and the respiratory system automatically exchange oxygen with carbon dioxide all day and night. Every cell in the body requires oxygen to live. Once air enters the lungs, oxygen is carried to small air sacs (alveoli) where this exchange happens. Within the lungs, many branches called the bronchioles distribute air to the alveoli. Asthma can cause these bronchial tubes to narrow, restricting ease of breathing. [1]

When you have asthma, your airways may narrow, swell, and produce excess mucus. This triggers coughing and breathing difficulties. Asthma symptoms may vary in severity, but you will likely be prescribed some form of asthma treatment like Flovent. Asthma symptoms, like wheezing and breathlessness, tend to occur suddenly (asthma attacks). In addition to a long-term maintenance inhaler, your doctor will likely prescribe an emergency quick-relief inhaler. [2]

Asthma medications are effective at relieving and managing symptoms. Still, asthma patients need to proactively reduce encounters with their asthma triggers. This may mean staying indoors during periods of poor air quality, avoiding workplaces with poor ventilation or concentrated fumes, and taking steps to control pet dander or mold at home. The exact cause of asthma is still unknown, but several factors can increase your risk of developing this respiratory illness. [2] Read on for five of the most common risk factors for asthma.

a row of unused cigarettes

Tobacco Smoke and the Airways

The top risk factor for asthma is cigarette smoke. Smoking irritates the lungs, which leads to swelling, redness, and excess mucus production. The linings in the lungs are a built-in defense mechanism against dirt, germs, and other particles in the air. Tobacco smoke can destroy these lung tissues and leave the lungs more susceptible to infections and asthma. Over time, frequent asthma attacks caused by smoking can alter the lungs’ shape and increase the risk of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). 

Smoking is detrimental to your entire body, not just the lungs. In the United States, smoking is the number one cause of preventable death. But smoking is an addictive habit that is difficult to quit. Talk to your doctor for help quitting if you want to improve your lungs and overall health. Joining a support community can give you strength on your quitting journey. Being around non-smokers is another way to kick your smoking habit. Second-hand smoke is equally bad for the lungs and being around smokers may make you want to smoke again. [3]

Allergic Asthma

Those who have prior allergies may also be more likely to develop asthma. Being allergic to one or more of the following substances can increase your risk:

  • Pollen
  • Dust mites
  • Pet dander
  • Milk, eggs, peanuts, or other common food allergies

But why does having an allergic skin condition like atopic dermatitis (eczema) or allergic rhinitis increase your risk of asthma? Allergic responses tend to cause congestion and skin irritation. These allergic reactions can occur in the lungs, leading to asthma symptoms.

Not all asthma is caused by an allergic reaction, but allergic asthma is one of the most common types. Usually, those who have allergic asthma can control their symptoms by avoiding allergens. Paired with the right asthma treatments, allergic asthma is often manageable. However, if your asthma symptoms persist after eliminating exposure to allergens, there may be another underlying cause. [4]

a woodworker

Occupational Risks for Asthma

Your workplace could be harming your lungs if your occupation involves chemical fumes, wood dusts, or vehicle exhaust. Other common workplace substances that increase your risk of asthma include:

  • Solvents
  • Pests and insects
  • Molds
  • Second-hand smoke
  • Ozone and particulate matter

Over time, being exposed to these substances can cause asthma or worsen asthma symptoms. Whether you work indoors or outdoors, it is important to speak with a supervisor about any concerns you have about the air quality of your work environment. Read up on local and state regulations that outline safety measures for protecting your lungs. One in six cases of adult-onset asthma is caused by occupational exposure, so addressing this risk factor is crucial for your lung health. [5]   

The Link Between Weight and Asthma

The correlation between obesity and asthma is unclear, but there is evidence that obese patients are at a greater risk of asthma than those in a healthy weight range. People with a body mass index (BMI) of 30 are considered overweight. Most researchers think that the link between weight and asthma has to do with low-grade body inflammation that accompanies extra weight.

a medical scale

Carrying extra weight around the abdomen and chest area might exert stress on the lungs, constricting the airways and causing more breathing difficulties. If you have asthma, losing excess weight can help you use less medication while experiencing fewer symptoms. Like quitting smoking, losing weight can be difficult. Speak with your physician about positive ways to reach your weight goal. [6]    

Family History of Respiratory Illnesses

Finally, asthma is a condition known to run in families. If you have one or more close relatives with asthma, you may have a higher risk of having asthma as well. This may be due to inherited genes that are more prone to lung conditions. This may also be due to habits, lifestyle choices, and living environments shared with family members.

If you know that your family has a history of asthma, you can get on top of your asthma risk by avoiding exposure to common asthma triggers. Protecting your lungs from tobacco smoke and exhaust fumes can also go a long way in keeping your lungs in optimal health. [6]

Asthma can interfere with many everyday activities, but inhalers like fluticasone and Advair (fluticasone/salmeterol) can help keep symptoms manageable. If you are looking to fill your prescription, visit Canada Med Pharmacy and save on asthma medications today. 

The content in this article is intended for informational purposes only. This website does not provide medical advice. In all circumstances, you should always seek the advice of your physician and/or other qualified health professionals(s) for drug, medical condition, or treatment advice. The content provided on this website is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.