Asthma/Allergens

Asthma is a chronic respiratory disease that affects people of all ages. Approximately 650,000 people in Indiana currently have asthma, including about 9.1 percent of adults and 9.5 percent of children.

AsthmaAsthma can be serious and even life-threatening. For people with asthma, respiratory infections, allergens, chemicals, odors, physical activity, emotions, seasonal changes and smoking can irritate the lungs and lead to repeated flare-ups or asthma attacks.

While there is no cure for asthma,  the symptoms can be managed and treated by taking medicine and avoiding the triggers that can cause an attack or excacerbation.

Below you will find more information about asthma, its triggers, ways to control it and other helpful resources.

Causes of Asthma

The exact causes of asthma are unknown. Researchers think some genetic and environmental factors interact to cause asthma, most often early in life. These factors include:

  • Genetics. Asthma tends to runs in families. Genetics plays an important role in causing asthma.If your mom or dad have asthma, then you are more likely to have asthma too.
  • Allergies. Certain allergies are linked to people who get asthma.
  • Respiratory infections. As the lungs develop in infancy and early childhood, certain respiratory infections have been shown to cause inflammation and damage the lung tissue. The damage that is caused in infancy or early childhood can impact lung function long-term.
  • Environment. Contact with allergens, certain irritants, or exposure to viral infections as an infant or in early childhood when the immune system in developing have been linked to developing asthma. Air pollution and irritants like pet dander and dust mites may also play a significant role in adult-onset asthma. Other triggers include urine, feces and body parts of cockroaches.

Symptoms of Asthma

Asthma symptoms can differ for each person, but here are some of the most common:

  • Wheezing. You may notice a wheezing sound when you breathe. Sometimes this happens only when you exercise or have a cold.
  • Frequent cough. This may be more common in the morning or at night. You may or may not cough up mucus.
  • Shortness of breath. This is the feeling you can’t get enough air into your lungs. It may occur only once in a while, or often.
  • Chest tightness. Your chest may feel tight, especially during cold weather or exercise. This can also be the first sign of a flare-up.

Not all people who have asthma have these symptoms. Likewise, having these symptoms doesn’t always mean that you have asthma.

Talk to your healthcare provider if you are experiencing any of these symptoms. Your healthcare provider can work with you to determine if you have asthma and create an asthma action plan that may include identifying your asthma triggers and prescribing medicines to help control your asthma.

Controlling Asthma

There are some important things you can do to reduce your risk of lung disease or asthma flare-ups:

  • Do not smoke.Tobacco smoke is unhealthy for everyone, especially people with asthma. If you have asthma and you smoke, quit smoking.
  • Avoid exposure to pollutants that can damage your lungs. Secondhand smoke, outdoor air pollution, chemicals in the home and workplace, and radon can all cause or worsen lung disease and asthma.
  • Eliminate or reduce other asthma triggers in the home. Allergens from dust, animal fur, cockroaches, mold, and pollens from trees, grasses, and flowers can cause asthma to flare-up. Try to identify and avoid these triggers as much as possible.
  • Prevent respiratory infections by practicing good handwashing, getting vaccinated against the flu and pertussis and staying home if you are sick.
  • Get regular checkups and follow your asthma action plan. If your child has asthma, all of the people who care for him or her should know about the child’s asthma action plan, including babysitters and workers at daycare centers, schools, and camps.

Additional Resources