Why Do I Have Asthma?

I’m often asked what caused my asthma. Was I born with it? Was it from catching bronchitis? Did I smoke cigarettes? (No.) One uninformed person insisted that drinking alcohol while pregnant causes asthma, and asked if my mom drank. (She didn't.) So, what do I think actually caused my asthma?

Despite all of the research that has been dedicated to asthma, we still don’t really know what causes it. Genetics can certainly play a role, especially if your mom has asthma. Environmental factors such as exposure to pollution or second-hand smoke can also be a factor. Lifestyle choices such as the Standard American Diet (SAD) and being sedentary can also play a role.

What caused my asthma?

I started having trouble breathing when I was 16 years old and was getting over bronchitis. I wasn’t diagnosed with asthma until I was in college. I was a typical, middle class, active kid. So what do I think contributed to my asthma diagnosis?

Genetic asthma causes

My grandfather had asthma and actually died from an asthma attack, so it is possible I did inherit the disease. Other members of my family also have breathing issues.

Environmental asthma causes

When I was growing up, my mom’s favorite phrase was “go outside.” You don’t feel well? Go outside. Bored? Go outside. It was her cure-all for everything. But “outside” was full of allergens and irritants.

  • The swimming pool
    We had a great in-ground swimming pool that I spent a lot of time playing in. It was where I hung out with my friends and cousins. Chlorine and other chemicals were often put in the pool when I was nearby and could always smell them. I could smell the chlorine in the pool all of the time, but it didn’t keep me from swimming daily every summer.
  • Landscaping services
    We had a beautiful lawn thanks to a company called Chemlawn. They came by weekly to not only mow the lawn but to spray it with pesticides other chemicals (hence the name, Chemlawn). I played around in that freshly sprayed grass all summer long.

Being indoors was also problematic

Wood burning fireplace and stove

We used this most of the winter to heat the house. During winter the downstairs was warm but dry and smokey. We would keep a pot of water on the woodstove to try and keep the air moist.

Menthol vapor rub

When I was sick, my mom would slather Vick’s all over my chest and put a dab under my nose to help clear my sinuses. Then she would put me in flannel pajamas and pile on the blankets. I disliked the smell and feel, but my mom was convinced this would help cure my cough and breathing issues. My mom’s belief in Vick’s and the care she took in bundling me up was very comforting.

What do you think caused your asthma?

It’s hard to pinpoint which of the above may have directly or indirectly contributed to me getting asthma. More than likely it was a combo of all of the above; caused by the typical childhood.

How about you - do you know what may have caused your asthma? Share in the comments below!

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