ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

What Causes Asthma?

Updated on February 25, 2012

There are numerous causes of asthma, some more important in one person than others. The first point to bear in mind is that asthma occurs in people predisposed to the condition, in other words, those with hyper-reactive airways. Bronchial hyper-reactivity may be inherited as it can be induced in symptom free relatives of asthmatic children and is much commoner in identical than non-identical twins. It is against this background of hyper-reactivity that the agents precipitating asthma act.

Infections

The commonest cause of an attack of asthma is a viral infection. Many parents will notice their child developing a cold, runny nose then start coughing. This may be followed by wheezing over the next day or two. Why such infections provoke asthma is uncertain, but it is thought that they stimulate the hyper-reactive airways to narrow. These infections are almost invariably due to viruses, which do not respond to antibiotics. So antibiotics are very rarely needed in the management of an acute episode of asthma. Viral infections are commonest in late autumn and winter, so childhood asthma is particularly common during these seasons.

Allergic factors

Asthma can be induced by agents to which the child is allergic. These are called allergens and include the following:

Pollens

Pollens are carried in the wind and are inhaled. They may arise from trees, grasses or flowers and differ in various parts of the world. Pollens are only around at pollinating times which are usually only a month or so each year. They are obviously very difficult allergens to avoid.

Mold

Molds which are members of the fungus family, are widespread.

They are also carried around in the air. They are usually around in the warmer months, but can cause allergic symptoms indoors in the winter. High levels of molds occur in damp conditions such as rain and fog where they may be present in a damp room or in food storage areas, rubbish bins, wallpaper, upholstery etc.

House Dust

House dust is made up of lots of components: big particles and small particles. Anyone cleaning out a dusty room will cough and sneeze, but the asthmatic with his/her sensitive bronchi may well wheeze. House dust consists of pollens, hairs and skin scales from the family pet, fragments of clothing and upholstery, dead insects and bacteria, animal and plant fibers, food remnants etc.

Obviously it is not possible to protect oneself from all these normal things; however in practical terms, it is wise for the bedroom of an asthmatic child to be vacuumed and equipped with non-upholstered furniture, if that is possible. A foam mattress and pillow are preferable to avoid the dust in standard mattresses and pillows.

The main cause of house dust allergy is the house dust mite.

Mites live on human skin and are shed with the old skin scales onto the clothes or bedding. Mites flourish in damp, temperate places and are best kept under control by keeping the dust content of the home down and ensuring that it is as well heated and ventilated as possible.

Pets

The fur, or sometimes the skin, scales or saliva, of a pet dog or cat may also act as an allergen. Bird feathers and the fur of other animals may also have the same effect. Whilst the pet is around the symptoms will persist. If you are unsure if the pet is responsible for the problems, before giving him away, try asking someone to look after him for a month or so and see if the symptoms disappear.

Food

Much has been said and written about food allergy not only in the context of asthma, but also in hay fever, feeding problems, hyperactivity and so on. Asthma is rarely caused by food allergies.

Food allergy when it occurs, is usually manifest by swollen lips and tongue, sometimes a rash and tummy pains and may be associated with coughing and wheezing. In other words, it is quite a dramatic event and usually the parents associate the symptoms with the food just taken by the child. If this does occur, that food should be avoided.

There are some preservatives in foods and soft drinks tartrazine sodium metabisulfite and monosodium glutamate which can cause problems. Sodium metabisulfite is used to preserve soft drinks and is broken down to the irritant gas, sulfur dioxide.

What usually happens is that with the first drink from the bottle or can, the child has a bout of coughing which may be associated with wheezing. This is a reflex response to the irritating sulfur dioxide. Children with these symptoms should avoid the offending soft drink. The effects of metabisulfite, MSG or tartrazine are not related to allergy, they are a direct effect of the chemical.

Environmental Factors

The environment that we live in, especially in cities, is polluted with fumes and other substances, all of which can probably precipitate an attack of asthma. Cigarette smoke can also do this either for the person smoking the cigarette or for those inhaling the 'second-hand' smoke. For children whose parents do not smoke, the incidence of asthma is 1.5 per cent, where one parent smokes it rises to 4.5 per cent and if both parents smoke, it rises to 8 per cent. Ideally parents of asthmatic children should not smoke.

Emotional Factors

This is a slightly confused area and folklore suggests that asthmatic children are 'nervous' children. This is untrue. However, it is accepted that emotional upsets, excitement or disappointment, can precipitate or aggravate an asthma attack. There is no particular personality type associated with asthma.

Medicines

Very few medicines given m childhood provoke an attack of asthma. The main group of medicines that may do this are called beta blockers and are very rarely used in childhood. Aspirin may also induce asthma in aspirin sensitive patients and is best avoided.

Exercise

Some children may develop an attack of asthma during or usually after moderate or strenuous exercise. For example, running about in the garden or playing an organized sport such as rugby. This is called 'exercise-induced' asthma. It is important that parents recognize this particular form of asthma in their child, if it occurs, as it can be almost totally prevented by appropriate medication, such as the use of a puffer, before exercise.

Changes in the Weather

Rapid climatic changes from hot to cold, or the other way around, can precipitate an attack of asthma. Some children are worse in damp weather, whilst others who are allergic to grasses are more likely to have attacks in the dry weather of the spring.

As can be seen there are many factors which precipitate asthma in a susceptible person. Some can be dealt with or avoided quite easily such as exercise, others like our environment are almost impossible to avoid.

Next: How is Asthma Diagnosed?

Comments

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No comments yet.

    working

    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, hubpages.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://hubpages.com/privacy-policy#gdpr

    Show Details
    Necessary
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Features
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Marketing
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Statistics
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
    ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)