Question:What are some of the important risk factors for developing asthma?
Answer: So the question of risk factors and asthma raises two different questions. One is the risk of getting asthma. The other is the risk of having an asthma attack. When we think about the risk of getting asthma or developing asthma over your lifetime there are a number of things that have been recognized as factors in developing the disease. First of all, living in a large urban city has been recognized partly because of the exposure to pollutants and dust in the city. The other important thing is exposure to secondhand smoke. And so that that's something that can be preventable, especially for kids who are living with smokers.
Exposure to occupational triggers can be very important and there are some very specific occupational triggers that can be avoided.
Having one or both parents with asthma, and that's a clear genetic link, so that many patients who develop asthma have to have had some sort of predisposition based on their family.
Respiratory infections, especially exposure as a child and if you have repeated respiratory infections as a child that puts you at greatest risk for asthma.
Kids who are born very small or low-birth weight children are at risk. Patients who have obesity are also now recognized to be at risk for asthma.
And lastly, patients with gastrophageal reflux disease or heartburn also are known to be at risk.
Now the other side of that question has to do with the risk of having an asthma attack. And there are now well-recognized triggers to asthma attacks that can be avoided and should be avoided at all costs. Those would include allergens, things like pollen, animal contact, animal dander, cockroaches and dust mites are very important causes for asthma, air pollutants and irritants to the airway, smoke, especially tobacco smoke should be avoided, strong odors or perfumes, things that irritate the airway that you can smell, respiratory infections, those obviously can't be completely avoided but so long as you try to avoid other people who have infections at the time they're infectious that will help you avoid an asthma attack. Sometimes physical exertion exercise can lead to an asthma attack as can cold temperature or sudden change in temperature to your airway.
Also, certain medications that you should review with your doctor may be implicated in causing asthma attacks. Some preservatives like sulfites in foods can lead to an asthma attacks. And also gastrophageal reflux which can be controlled with medication can also lead to asthma attacks as can sinusitis and post-nasal drip.