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Asthma Health Center

Asthma in Children: Symptoms and Risk Factors

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Asthma is the leading cause of chronic illness in children. It affects more than one of every 10 children in the U.S., and, for unknown reasons, it is steadily increasing. It can begin at any age, but most children have their first symptoms by age 5.

What Makes a Child More Likely to Develop Asthma?

There are many risk factors for developing childhood asthma. These include:

  • Presence of allergies -- food or environmental
  • Family history of asthma or allergies
  • Frequent respiratory infections
  • Low birth weight
  • Exposure to tobacco smoke before or after birth
  • Presence of eczema, a chronic skin condition
  • Being male
  • Being black
  • Being raised in a low-income environment

Why Are More Children Getting Asthma?

No one really knows why more children are developing asthma. Some experts suggest that children are being exposed to more allergens such as dust, air pollution, and second-hand smoke. These are factors that can all trigger asthma. Others suspect that children are not exposed to enough childhood illnesses to build up their immune systems. It appears that a disorder of the immune system in which the body fails to make enough protective antibodies may play a role in causing asthma.

Still others suggest that decreasing rates of breastfeeding have prevented important substances of the immune system from being passed on to babies, although rates, as of 2013, have begun to climb, according to the CDC.

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