Asthma is a chronic lung condition, which affects nearly 300 million people across the globe. Sensitive airways in the lungs react to triggers and this causes a ‘flare-up’ leading to tightening of the muscles around the airway. The airways start to swell and become narrow, making it difficult to breathe. If this flare up happens quickly, it’s called an asthma attack. It can also build up slowly over the days.
Common Triggers of Asthma
- Air-borne particles, such as pollen, dust mites, pet dander, & mold
- Respiratory infections of the airways and chest, or common cold
- Irritants like cigarette smoke or chemicals
- Sudden change in weather conditions or extreme weathers
- Foods which contain sulfites (preservatives)
- Painkillers such as aspirin, beta blockers, naproxen or ibuprofen
- Strenuous exercise
- Heartburn or acid reflux
What are the Risk Factors for Asthma?
The likelihood of asthma is increased by the following factors:
- Being born prematurely and requiring a ventilator
- A family history of asthma or other related allergies like eczema, food allergy or hay fever
- Being exposed to cigarette or any tobacco smoke as a baby, or if the mother has smoked during pregnancy
- Being born with a low birthweight
- Some workplace chemicals, which trigger the constriction of lung muscles
A study conducted in 2009 concludes that apart from genetic factors, environmental factors such as infections may increase the risk of asthma in a person. Prenatal risks such as diet and nutrition of the mother, stress, use of antibiotics as well as the mode of delivery of the baby can all be risk factors. In early childhood, things such as exposure to allergens & pollution can also put the child at a risk of asthma.
Gender also plays a role in developing the condition among children. Young boys are more vulnerable to it as their airway size is smaller compared to females. However, after the age of 40, females are more likely to get the condition than males.