The first time I had an asthma attack, I thought I was dying. I had a cold that I had been fighting for some time, and was at work folding laundry. Suddenly, it was hard to catch my breath. I was coughing all the time, and had to take very shallow breaths to get any air in my lungs. I saw my doctor that day, and he told me I had asthma. My first question was, “What causes asthma?“
I didn’t even think someone could develop asthma in their late 20’s.
Usually, asthma is considered a childhood disease, and many people outgrow it by their late teens.
As we went through my medical history, I discovered that many of the times where I thought I had bronchitis were probably lengthy and mild asthma attacks.
I also learned that I had been having asthma attacks after exercise nearly my whole life, but they weren’t bad enough to make anyone think anything other than I had bad lungs (kind of the definition of asthma, but no one said I was the smartest crayon in the box).
What Are the Causes of Asthma?
Once I learned I had asthma, I learned that I could avoid chronic bronchitis and horrible coughing fits after exercise, if I could learn my asthma causes.
My doctor recommended that I start taking antihistamine medications. One of the largest triggers of asthma can be airborne allergens:
- Dust mites
- Mold spores
- Pet dander
- Cockroach waste
- Air pollutants
- Cold air
These are all environmental factors in asthma attacks that you should watch out for, to prevent some of the recurring asthma symptoms.
Smoking and Other Risk Factors for Asthma
Along with the triggers that are common with asthma attacks, some other common causes of asthma include things that you may not have any control over.
My parents smoked in the house every day of my life. If we were in the car, the windows were rolled up, and they were smoking cigarettes on the way to wherever we went.
Everyone I knew smoked cigarettes, and eventually I did too (though I quit and haven’t gone back).
Secondhand smoke and firsthand smoke are two of the most common causes of asthma.
Smoking and being exposed to secondhand smoke can have the most extreme outcomes for the lungs.
Other asthma causes can include:
- Occupational hazards, like chemicals used in nail salons, farming and manufacturing.
- Exhaust and other types of pollution in densely populated areas.
- Being overweight.
- Family members with asthma.
- Premature birth.
Types of Asthma
The causes of asthma may depend on the kind of asthma that you have.
I primarily have exercise induced asthma and allergic asthma. This means that when I exercise I need to take my inhaler before my workout.
Also, when it is allergy season, I am prone to respiratory infections and asthma flare-ups.
There are several other types of asthma that all have their set of triggers.
- Exercise triggers asthma attacks;
- airway narrows five to 20 minutes after exercise begins;
- wheezing and coughing post exercise;
- cold air makes it worse.
- Coughing is the primary symptom;
- can be brought on by sinusitis, GERD or rhinitis;
- goes underdiagnosed and undertreated;
- persistent coughing could be a form of asthma, and you should get a lung function test.
Workplace triggers are the causes of asthma for this set of people:
- animal breeders;
- Chances of asthma symptoms occur higher at night;
- most asthma deaths happen at night because of certain risk factors:
- increased exposure to asthma triggers;
- reclining position;
Not being able to breathe can be scary enough, not knowing what is causing it or making it worse can be horrible. Learning what triggers your asthma, and how to keep it manageable, is the key to living with asthma.
Just like any other chronic medical condition, your triggers may be unique to you and your surroundings. Always discuss your thoughts with your physician before starting, stopping, or changing anything about how you treat your asthma.
Of course, treating asthma naturally is the safest option before you go see the doctors, and hear what more you can do.