More than 25 million people – nearly a third of them children - are known to have asthma. The lung disease causes recurring periods of wheezing, chest tightness, shortness of breath, and coughing – all of which can be more troublesome on ozone alert days in summer. Dr. Stephen Mueller with Methodist Charlton Medical Center explains why in this week’s edition of Vital Signs.
Three Key Things To Know About Asthma:
What Causes Asthma?
The exact cause of asthma isn't known. Researchers think some genetic and environmental factors interact to cause asthma, most often early in life. These factors include:
- •An inherited tendency to develop allergies, called atopy (AT-o-pe)
- •Parents who have asthma
- •Certain respiratory infections during childhood
- •Contact with some airborne allergens or exposure to some viral infections in infancy or in early childhood when the immune system is developing
Who Is at Risk for Asthma?
Asthma affects people of all ages, but young children who often wheeze and have respiratory infections—as well as certain other risk factors—are at highest risk of developing asthma that continues beyond 6 years of age. The other risk factors include having allergies, eczema (an allergic skin condition), or parents who have asthma.
Among children, more boys have asthma than girls. But among adults, the disease affects men and women equally. Most, but not all, people who have asthma have allergies. Some people develop asthma because of contact with certain chemical irritants or industrial dusts in the workplace. This type of asthma is called occupational asthma.
Common signs and symptoms of asthma include:
- Coughing. Coughing from asthma often is worse at night or early in the morning, making it hard to sleep.
- Wheezing. Wheezing is a whistling or squeaky sound that occurs when you breathe.
- Chest tightness. This may feel like something is squeezing or sitting on your chest.
- Shortness of breath. Some people who have asthma say they can't catch their breath or they feel out of breath. You may feel like you can't get air out of your lungs.
- National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute
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