Asthma Risk Factors | American Lung Association

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Asthma Risk Factors

The most common risk factors for developing asthma is having a parent with asthma, having a severe respiratory infection as a child, having an allergic condition, or being exposed to certain chemical irritants or industrial dusts in the workplace.

What puts people at risk for developing asthma?

  • Family history
    If you have a parent with asthma, you are three to six times more likely to develop asthma than someone who does not have a parent with asthma.
  • Viral respiratory infections
    Respiratory problems during infancy and childhood can cause wheezing. Some children who experience viral respiratory infections go on to develop chronic asthma.
  • Allergies
    Having an allergic condition, such as atopic dermatitis (eczema) or allergic rhinitis (hay fever), is a risk factor for developing asthma.
  • Occupational exposures
    If you have asthma, exposures to certain elements in the workplace can cause asthma symptoms. And, for some people, exposure to certain dusts (industrial or wood dusts), chemical fumes and vapors, and molds can cause asthma to develop for the very first time.
  • Smoking
    Cigarette smoke irritates the airways. Smokers have a high risk of asthma. Those whose mothers smoked during pregnancy or who were exposed to secondhand smoke are also more likely to have asthma.
  • Air Pollution
    Exposure to the main component of smog (ozone) raises the risk for asthma. Those who grew up or live in urban areas have a higher risk for asthma.
  • Obesity
    Children and adults who are overweight or obese are at a greater risk of asthma. Although the reasons are unclear, some experts point to low-grade inflammation in the body that occurs with extra weight. Obese patients often use more medications, suffer worse symptoms and are less able to control their asthma than patients in a healthy weight range.

    Reviewed and approved by the American Lung Association Scientific and Medical Editorial Review Panel. Last reviewed May 21, 2018.

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