Does asthma run in the family?

Causes

Both genetics and environment play a role in the development of asthma, but scientists still do not know the exact causes. That said, they have identified a number of triggers for asthma symptoms.

Asthma triggers can vary from person to person and may include:

  • respiratory infections, including the cold or flu
  • irritants in the air
  • air pollution
  • tobacco smoke
  • exercise
  • cold air
  • medications, including beta-blockers and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs
  • stress
  • food and drink preservatives
  • allergens, including dust, dander, and pollen
  • acid reflux

Risk factors

A number of risk factors can increase a person’s chances of developing asthma.

Genetics, or family history of asthma, raise a person’s likelihood of developing asthma at some point in their life.

Other risk factors for asthma include:

  • being overweight
  • smoking
  • having allergies or other allergy-related conditions
  • frequent exposure to secondhand smoke
  • exposure to other forms of pollution, such as exhaust fumes
  • exposure to occupational irritants, including chemicals and dust

Symptoms

Asthma symptoms and their severity vary by person. Some may have symptoms frequently, while other people may only experience them occasionally.

Asthma symptoms can include:

  • wheezing
  • chest tightness
  • difficulty breathing
  • shortness of breath
  • coughing

Sometimes, triggers can cause a short period of worsening symptoms called asthma attacks. When a person has an asthma attack, their bronchial tubes constrict.

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