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Asthma in Teens and Adults - What Increases Your Risk

Many things can increase your risk for asthma. Some of these are not within your control. Others you can control.

The main things that put you at risk for getting asthma as an adult are ongoing (chronic) wheezing when you were a child and cigarette smoking.3, 4

Personal and family history

  • Gender and age. Women and men seem to have the same risk of getting asthma until they reach their 40s. After 40, women have a higher risk for asthma.
  • A family history of allergies and asthma. People who have an allergy and asthma usually have a family history of allergies or asthma.
  • Airways that overreact. People who inherit a tendency of the airways camera.gif to overreact often get asthma.
  • A history of allergy. If you have an allergy, you are more likely than others to have asthma. Most children and many adults with asthma have atopic dermatitis, allergies, or both.

Other things that increase your risk

  • Cigarette smoking. People who smoke are more likely to get asthma than people who don't. If you already have asthma and you smoke, it may make your symptoms worse.
  • Cigarette smoking during pregnancy. This raises the risk of wheezing in babies. Babies whose mothers smoked during pregnancy also have worse lung function than those whose mothers didn't smoke.
  • Workplace exposure to irritants or allergens. This causes occupational asthma. Irritants or allergens also can make symptoms worse in people who already have asthma.
  • Cockroaches. Cockroach droppings in a child's home have been linked to a higher risk for asthma.5
  • Obesity. Being obese raises your risk for asthma.6Weight gain may make asthma worse.

Risk factors that may make asthma worse (triggers)

Triggers that may make asthma worse and may lead to asthma attacks include:

Possible risk factors that need more research

Experts aren't yet sure:

  • Whether breast-feeding raises a child's asthma risk or protects a child from asthma. A large study following children until 14 years of age found that breast-feeding was not linked to asthma.8 Mothers are encouraged to breast-feed their children for all the other proven health benefits that come from breast-feeding.
  • About the effect that pets in the home have on getting asthma. A review of several studies found that having a pet cat appeared to protect against asthma, while pet dogs slightly increased the risk of asthma. The effect of other furry pets on the risk of asthma was not clear.9 If your child already has asthma and allergies to pets, having a pet in the home may make his or her asthma worse.
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WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: February 22, 2013
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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