What Causes Asthma?

It isn’t clear why some people develop asthma and others don’t. There are probably a combination of environmental and genetic (inherited) factors that play a role in you developing the condition.

Asthma triggers

Asthma triggers are different from person to person and can include:

  • Exposure to airborne substances, such as pollen, dust mites, mould spores or pet dander
  • Respiratory infections, such as the common cold
  • Physical activity (exercise-induced asthma)
  • Cold air
  • Air pollutants and irritants, such as smoke
  • Certain medications, including beta blockers, aspirin, ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB, others) and naproxen (Aleve)
  • Strong emotions and stress
  • Sulfites and preservatives added to some types of foods and beverages, including shrimp, dried fruit, processed potatoes, beer and wine
  • Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), a condition in which stomach acids back up into your throat

Risk factors

There are a number of risk factors that could increase your chances of developing asthma. These include:

  • Having a blood relative (such as a parent or sibling) with asthma
  • Having another allergic condition, such as atopic dermatitis or allergic rhinitis (hay fever)
  • Being overweight
  • Being a smoker
  • Exposure to secondhand smoke
  • Exposure to exhaust fumes or other types of pollution
  • Exposure to occupational triggers, such as chemicals used in farming, hairdressing and manufacturing


Sometimes complications can occur, these can include:

  • Signs and symptoms that interfere with sleep, work or recreational activities
  • Sick days from work or school during asthma flare-ups
  • Permanent narrowing of the bronchial tubes (airway remodeling) that affects how well you can breathe
  • Emergency room visits and hospitalisations for severe asthma attacks
  • Side effects from long-term use of some medications used to stabilize severe asthma

Getting the right treatment can make a big difference in preventing both short-term and long-term complications caused by asthma so it’s important to contact your G.P. if you suspect you have the condition.

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