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Asthma Causes and Triggers

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Exercise-Induced Asthma

Strenuous exercise can cause a narrowing of the airways in about 80% of people with asthma. In some people, exercise is the main trigger for their asthma symptoms. If you have exercise-induced asthma, you will feel chest tightness, coughing, and difficulty breathing within the first five to eight minutes of an aerobic workout. These symptoms usually subside in the next 20 to 30 minutes of exercise, but up to 50% of those with exercise-induced asthma may have another asthma attack six to 10 hours later. It is important to warm up slowly and adequately prior to rigorous exercise. This may prevent an attack.

For more detail, see WebMD's Exercise-Induced Asthma.

Heartburn and Asthma

Severe heartburn and asthma often go hand-in-hand. Recent studies show that up to 89% of those with asthma also suffer from severe heartburn, known as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). GERD generally occurs at night when the sufferer is lying down. Normally a valve between the esophagus and stomach prevents stomach acids from backing up into the esophagus. In GERD, the valve does not function properly. The stomach acids reflux, or back up, into the esophagus; if the acid reaches into the throat or airways the irritation and inflammation can trigger an asthma attack.

Certain clues that suggest reflux as the cause of asthma include the onset of asthma in adulthood, no family history of asthma, no history of allergies or bronchitis, difficult-to-control asthma, or coughing while lying down.

If your doctor suspects this problem, he or she may recommend specific tests to look for it, change your foods, or offer you medications..

For more detail, see WebMD's Heartburn and Asthma.

Smoking and Asthma

People who smoke cigarettes are more likely to get asthma. If you smoke with asthma, it may make your symptoms such as coughing and wheezing worse. Women who smoke during pregnancy increase the risk of wheezing in their babies. Babies whose mothers smoked during pregnancy also have worse lung function than those whose mothers did not smoke. If you have asthma and you're a smoker, quitting is the most important step you can take to protect your lungs.

For more detail, see WebMD's Smoking and Asthma.

Sinusitis and Other Upper Respiratory Infections

Much like asthma causes inflammation in the lining of the airways, sinusitis causes inflammation in the mucous membranes that line the sinuses. This inflammation causes the mucous membranes in the sinuses to secrete more mucus -- also similar to asthma. When the sinuses get inflamed, the airways respond similarly in many people with asthma, leading to sinusitis with asthma. Prevention and prompt treatment of a sinus infection is often necessary to help relieve asthma symptoms.

For more detail, see WebMD's Sinusitis and Asthma.

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