What Causes Asthma?

Asthma: Who Gets It And Why?

The predisposition to asthma (the chance of getting it) is partly inherited and partly a matter of lifestyle: a poor diet makes asthma more likely, as does too much cleanliness, obesity and lack of exercise.

Asthma Inherited?

"My mother had eczema, my brother asthma and my sister an allergy to dust mites. My second sister is completely allergy-free, but I also have asthma". This is what is known as an atopic family - one where classical allergies (asthma, eczema, hayfever and food allergies) affect several family members. If you come from an atopic family, you are much more likely to develop one or more of these conditions. Atopic tendencies are coded into your DNA and are passed from parent to child. If one of your parents is atopic the risk of you developing an atopic allergy (including asthma) is between 20-58 percent. If both parents are atopic, your risk is between 50 to 80 percent.

There are also other genes which make asthma more likely - if they are found in someone from an atopic family, your risk is probably higher again.

Diet And Asthma

There is increasing evidence that our Western diet makes asthma more likely to develop. If you are worried about developing asthma or worried for a child, it's probably a good idea to follow an anti-asthma diet (which is also good for your general health). An anti-asthma diet includes foods which helps prevent inflammation of the airways and the underlying reason for the airway muscles to spasm. It can be used as both a long term treatment for asthma, and as a prevention aid. 
See: What is an asthma diet?

Cleanliness, Obesity and Lack Of Exercise

A study by the University of Bristol showed that children who wash their hands more than 5 times a day and have 2 baths a day are twice as likely to develop asthma as children who wash their hands 3 times and have a bath every second day. This is probably because the 'dirtier' children build up a stronger immune system. See also: Are allergies becoming more common?

Several reputable studies show that obese children and adults are more likely to develop asthma than those of a healthy weight. Furthermore, being obese makes it harder to control your asthma as the medications do not work as effectively. Losing weight, if you are obese and have asthma, will help your management of the condition.

Can lack of exercise cause asthma? People who do not exercise are more likely to be obese, and for this reason, are in a higher risk category for asthma.

Interesting Asthma Statistics

• It's on the rise! 8 percent of the U.S. population had asthma in 2009 compared with 7 percent in 2001.
• In 2008 only half the adults with asthma followed advice on how to prevent an asthma attack.
• Asthma rates are higher (in this order) among: blacks, American Indian, Alaska Natives and whites.
• Between 2001 and 2009 asthma rates rose 50 percent among black children in the U.S.

Related Questions

What is asthma? Simple definition and explanation.
What are the symptoms of asthma? Coughing, wheezing and more.
When is a cough asthma? Persistent chronic coughing.

Can you grow out of an allergy? Or do you have it for life?
What triggers an asthma attack? 10 most common triggers.
What is the treatment for asthma? Quick guide to medications.
How is asthma diagnosed? Testing for the condition.
When is asthma not asthma? Other things that can mimic symptoms.
What is the best exercise for asthma? Even flute playing!


• Got another question? See: Allergy Questions

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