By Dr. Peter Klapper Ph.D.
A common misconception surrounding asthma is that it only develops during childhood, with children outgrowing it once they reach adulthood. Unfortunately, you can still contract asthma well into your older years. Statistics say among the 25 million Americans with asthma, 8.4% are adults.
Learn what makes adult-onset asthma different from childhood asthma, its causes, and how to treat asthma in adults through this blog.
Adult-Onset Asthma vs. Childhood Asthma
Adult-onset and childhood asthma share similar traits, such as symptoms and standard treatment. However, these conditions also differ in various aspects.
For one, asthma symptoms tend to be more severe among adults, perhaps because of age-related lung function decline. The chest wall stiffens as you age, which makes managing asthma more difficult, especially for middle-aged adults. Thus, adult-onset asthma typically requires daily treatment and a significant lifestyle change.
On the other hand, childhood asthma produces mild symptoms that come and go. Treatment is only necessary during an attack.
Some cases of childhood asthma also go away naturally in puberty, although relapse is possible. In comparison, adult- or late-onset asthma can persist for extended periods. It requires long-term treatment for proper management and to prevent the condition from worsening into respiratory failure.
What Causes Adult-Onset Asthma?
The exact cause of the disease is difficult to pinpoint. However, the following factors increase your likelihood of developing asthma in adulthood.
1. Childhood asthma
One of the most common risk factors of late-onset asthma is getting the disease early on. Per studies, 3% to 5% of the general population with childhood asthma may still experience asthma symptoms in early adulthood and beyond if not appropriately managed.
2. Family history of asthma
A person’s genetic makeup plays a crucial role in developing late-onset asthma. Research suggests that having a parent who has asthma makes you three to six times more likely to develop the respiratory disease, whether early or later in life.
Cigarettes, specifically the smoke it produces, are among the most common allergens that trigger asthma. Smoke from cigarettes irritates your bronchial tubes, causing them to swell, narrow, and fill your airways with mucus. If you or someone you live with is a smoker, you’re more likely to develop asthma in adulthood.
4. Hormonal changes in women
Hormones involved in the onset of menstruation, pregnancy, and menopause, like progesterone and estrogen, can trigger asthma in women. During these hormonal changes, your senses may be more hypersensitive, and everyday things like exercising, exposure to airborne pollutants, and other asthma-inducing factors make you prone to adult-onset asthma.
5. Gastroesophageal reflux (GERD)
GERD is a digestive disorder where the food and acid from your stomach flow back into the esophagus, causing inflammation and irritation. Stomach acid that repeatedly streams back into your air pathways can irritate and damage the esophagus linings.
Excessive body weight can lead to changes in lung function and increase the risk of developing respiratory conditions, including asthma. Obesity can cause a decrease in lung volume and compliance, making breathing more difficult and contributing to asthma development.
7. Exposure to environmental irritants
Environmental irritants include many substances, such as air pollution, dust, mold, pet dander, and chemical fumes.
When inhaled, these irritants can inflame air pathways and produce symptoms such as coughing and sneezing. Over time, repeated exposure to these irritants can cause chronic inflammation and remodeling of the airways, leading to adult-onset asthma.
Tips for Managing Asthma in Adults
Lifelong asthma can drastically impact one’s quality of life. To help ease the symptoms, here are tips for managing adult-onset asthma.
1. Learn your triggers
Prevention is the key when you have asthma. Knowing your triggers lets you avoid the particles and stressors that aggravate your condition, helping you reduce the frequency of your asthma attacks.
You can keep a diary of symptoms and triggers to help you remember. This diary will also be helpful to health professionals and your loved ones, so they know how to take care of you when you need assistance.
2. Quit smoking
Quitting smoking is your best course of action in managing adult-onset asthma, as this unhealthy habit stifles lung capacity and aggravates respiratory complications. It would be best to quit smoking with the help of a professional.
3. Exercise regularly, eat healthily, and get enough sleep
Regular exercise can improve lung capacity and overall health. Aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate activities, such as walking or cycling, each day of the week. In addition, eating a healthy diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean protein can also help maintain optimal lung function.
Following the recommended eight hours of sleep is also advisable because it ensures your body responds positively and benefits from healthy food and exercise.
4. Practice breathing exercises for asthma
Diaphragmatic breathing exercises help improve your lung capacity and breathing efficiency. It also lets you relax and mitigate stress and tension, which are common asthma triggers.
5. Try homeopathic remedies
Homeopathic remedies are alternative medications that utilize highly diluted forms of plants and minerals. These remedies do not introduce harmful synthetic chemicals to your body and can help regulate and prevent asthma episodes.
Beat Asthma Naturally
Adult-onset asthma is a challenging ailment since many factors can trigger it. Fortunately, by knowing what causes it, living a healthier lifestyle, and seeking natural treatments like homeopathy, you can manage asthma in adulthood better.
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