6 Avoidable Risk Factors for Asthma

by Dr. Edward Group DC, NP, DACBN, DCBCN, DABFM
Published on , Last Updated on

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Many of us would agree there’s nothing worse than difficulty breathing, and while there are many conditions out there, I want to talk to you today about asthma. A terrible respiratory condition, it can greatly affect one’s quality of life. If you’re living with asthma, it’s likely you already know your triggers, but there might be some things you weren’t aware of. Perhaps you’ve been newly diagnosed and wish to keep attacks at a minimum. That said, here are 6 avoidable risk factors I want to share with you.

1. Obesity

When a person has a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or higher, that person is termed obese. In a worrying discovery, childhood obesity—or obesity at any age—can also lead to asthma. One recent study even suggested the risk of asthma increased by 55% for every extra unit of BMI. [1]

2. Stress

There are many things that can affect the health of your unborn child, and it seems your stress levels might be one of them. A new study suggests high-stress events could be linked to a greater risk for childhood asthma. [2] Not only were the mothers studied, but the children were also evaluated at ages 6 and 14. The children, at 14, were “twice as likely to have asthma […] if their mothers had been through a single stressful life event.”

3. Household Chemicals

Often used as stabilizing agents, endocrine-disrupting phthalates in household chemicals could also increase the risk for childhood asthma. Scientists studied the phthalate levels of pregnant women, and noted the children of women with higher phthalate levels were almost three times more likely to have an asthma diagnosis. [3]

4. Inadequate Gas Ventilation

Gas stoves without proper ventilation could also be a trigger for childhood asthma, with a new study suggesting a link between gas kitchen stove ventilation and asthma. [4] When used for cooking or heating, these stoves can increase the number of indoor pollutants that trigger an asthma attack. So while the chances for breathing problems are still there, using proper ventilation can cut a kid’s risk by thirty to forty percent.

5. Breathing Dirty Air

A recent study looking to North Carolina as a model suggested air quality has significantly improved since mid-1990s governmental regulations. Many of you with asthma know how pollution can act as a trigger, so, for some, better air quality can lead to a better quality of life. Because of cleaner air, fewer asthma deaths have been reported, with numbers dropping almost by half. [5]

6. Smoking

It seems like smoking and breathing problems could go hand in hand, doesn’t it? Well, a recent study suggested those problems could start well before birth, noting children born to fathers who began smoking at an early age had three times higher risk for asthma. [6] And remember, a child with asthma has a doubled risk of attacks or symptoms if either parent smokes in the home. [7]

One Final Thought

Genetics certainly plays a large role in an asthma diagnosis, so while avoiding these risk factors can help, it isn’t a surefire guarantee you’ll completely dodge the condition. When it comes to helping your child, exposure to allergens in the first year could be critical when a child is building up immunity. In a study of 560 children at high-risk for asthma, “only 17 percent of those exposed to three household allergens during the first year of life had recurrent wheezing,” suggesting timing can be crucial. [8] Remember that sometimes a little dirt can be a good thing!

How do you avoid asthma risk factors? Tell us about it in the comments.

References (8)
  1. Grenell, R. et al. Effects of BMI, Fat Mass, and Lean Mass on Asthma in Childhood: A Mendelian Randomization Study. PLOS Medicine.
  2. Sly, PD. et al. Prenatal adverse life events increase the risk for atopic diseases in children, which is enhanced in the absence of a maternal atopic predisposition. The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology. 134 (1).
  3. Whyatt, R. et al. Asthma in Inner-City Children at 5–11 Years of Age and Prenatal Exposure to Phthalates: The Columbia Center for Children’s Environmental Health Cohort. Environmental Health Perspectives.
  4. Smit, E. et al. A cross-sectional study of the association between ventilation of gas stoves and chronic respiratory illness in U.S. children enrolled in NHANESIII. Environmental Health. 13 (71).
  5. Abernethy, AP. et al. Long-term dynamics of death rates of emphysema, asthma, and pneumonia and improving air quality. International Journal of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease. 9 (1).
  6. Svanes, C. et al. Parental smoking prior to conception and asthma in offspring. European Respiratory Journal.
  7. Committee on Environmental Health. Environmental Tobacco Smoke: A Hazard to Children. Pediatrics. 99 (4).
  8. Lynch, S. et al. Effects of early-life exposure to allergens and bacteria on recurrent wheeze and atopy in urban children. The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology. 134 (3).

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