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How Does One "Get" Asthma?

Have you ever been diagnosed with something and wondered: "How did I get that?!"

Acute illnesses vs chronic diseases

For acute illnesses (that will be of short duration), the culprit can be anything - schools, summer camp, subways, airplanes, etc.

When my kids were little, they were ALWAYS sick. Schools are walking bug factories! I had helped out in their classes enough to see other students picking their noses, coughing and sneezing, throwing up, etc. Ugh! The teacher would usually send home a note to let me know that stomach flu/pink eye/strep/whatever else was being spread through the classroom. I was never surprised when one of my kids started to get sick and would think "Here we go again!"

I am a germaphobe and was one well before COVID started, thank you very much! I taught my kids to not touch handrails, doorknobs, or elevator buttons with their bare hands. I carried hand wipes in my purse and put them in every car. We used them to wipe off the handle on the shopping cart, the tray and armrests on the airplane, and anything else we touched.

Again, we have lived like this for 21 years - since my middle son was diagnosed with asthma. Eventually, my other two kids and I were ALL diagnosed with asthma, and I battled to keep us all healthy and out of the hospital. I failed miserably, as my kids were hospitalized 12 times for asthma (thanks to pneumonia, forest fires, and smoke from fireworks.)

Careful handwashing and germ avoidance can help us avoid acute illnesses like the stomach flu, strep throat, colds, etc, but it won't help prevent chronic disease.

You may wonder how you "got" a chronic disease (that you will have for the rest of your life). Sometimes, there are risk factors that make it more likely that you can get a disease. But some diseases don't have a known cause. Frustrating, I know!

So how do you "get" asthma?

Well, nobody knows (I know, that's not helpful, right?)  But there are some basic risk factors:1

  • Family History: Some traits tend to run in families (height, eye color, hair color, curly or straight hair, etc.) Asthma can also run in families. If your mom or dad has asthma, it's more likely that you will also have asthma. I apologize to my 3 adult kids for passing on my asthma - sorry guys!
  • Allergies: Allergies to pollen, dander, mold, or dust can also run in families. And again I apologize to my kids! The more allergies you have, the more likely it is that you will develop asthma.
  • Environment: There are many environmental causes, such as cigarette smoke (in the womb or during childhood), exposure to bacteria, viruses or fungi, poor air quality, workplace chemicals, or industrial dust.
  • Colds with wheezing: Kids with frequent viral respiratory infections are more likely to develop asthma in childhood.

In my family, we have allergies and asthma on my side of the family and on my husband's side. There are countless relatives with allergies and asthma. So, my kids didn't stand a chance and inherited allergies and asthma. But - they also inherited our love of reading and travel, quirky sense of humor (known to be the cause of many eye rolls), and stubborn personalities. Not all genetics are you know!

Has anyone else wondered how they developed asthma?

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