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Did you know it’s possible for individuals to outgrow asthma, and for non-affected children to develop asthma as an adult?

According to the CDC, asthma affects more than 25 million people in the United States and the prevalence of asthma has been increasing since the early 1980s. As of 2020, about 1 in 13 people have asthma — meaning it affects about 8% of the total population.

It’s important to understand that childhood asthma is different than adult-onset asthma. In this overview, we’ll explain everything you need to know about all the types of asthma such as how you can develop asthma and if it can go away.

What is asthma

Asthma is a condition in which a person’s airways narrow and swell in addition to producing extra mucus which makes breathing difficult. Furthermore, asthma can trigger wheezing, coughing, and shortness of breath in affected individuals. The severity varies from person to person, with it being a minor nuisance for some and a major issue for others that interferes with daily activities and may even be life-threatening in the occurrence of an asthma attack.

Asthma risk factors

According to the American Lung Association, the following factors are linked to a higher risk of developing asthma:

  • Family history - Individuals who have a parent with asthma are three to six times more likely to develop asthma than others who do not.
  • Allergies - Having allergies to one or more allergens puts individuals at a higher risk for developing asthma.
  • Viral respiratory infections - During infancy or childhood, viral respiratory infections can cause wheezing which may later develop into chronic asthma.
  • Occupational exposures - For individuals with asthma, workplace exposure to triggers such as chemical fumes or dust can cause asthma symptoms. However, some people who don’t have asthma as children develop adult-onset asthma from prolonged exposure to these triggers.
  • Cigarette Smoke - Cigarette smoke irritates airways for smokers and people who are exposed to secondhand smoke are also at an increased risk of developing asthma. This includes infants whose mothers smoked during pregnancy.
  • Air pollution - Individuals who live in an area with significant air pollution such as a major city or other urban area have a higher risk of developing asthma.
  • Obesity - Obesity has been linked to a higher risk of asthma in both children and adults. The reasons aren’t completely clear, but some researchers believe it may be due to low-grade inflammation in the body.

Can you develop asthma as an adult?

Even if you don’t have asthma as a child, it’s possible to develop symptoms later on in life. While we’ve discussed common risk factors for developing asthma, the factors for developing adult-onset asthma vary slightly. Researchers haven’t firmly identified why certain individuals develop asthma as adults, but they have determined some factors that may be linked.

About 16% of adult-onset asthma cases are caused by occupational exposures and at least 30% of adult-onset cases are caused by allergies. Allergens that are especially likely to trigger asthma symptoms in adults after prolonged exposure include:

  • Chemicals
  • Cigarette smoke
  • Dust
  • Pollen
  • Mold

If you find yourself frequently exposed to these allergens in the workplace or at home, consider using an air purifier such as the Alen BreatheSmart 45i True HEPA Air Purifier. This purifier removes allergen particles from the air to help ensure you can breathe easily throughout the day and at night. In fact, the BreatheSmart 45i operates at a whisper-quiet noise level and generates a soothing pink noise which can help improve sleep quality by up to 25%.

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Symptoms of asthma

The symptoms of childhood and adult-onset asthma are the same regardless of age and include:

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Coughing
  • Wheezing
  • Pressure in the chest
  • Shortness of breath after physical activity
  • Delayed recovery from respiratory infections such as a cold or flu

Most children with asthma will start showing symptoms by the age of five, but it’s important to know that symptoms resembling asthma may appear in children even if they don’t actually have it. This is because children have much smaller airways compared to adults, meaning regular mucus build-up may clog airways leading to asthma-like symptoms.

If you or your child experiences these symptoms on a regular basis, consult a physician who will perform a series of breathing tests to determine if the affected person has asthma.

Differences between childhood and adult-onset asthma

While the base symptoms of asthma are the same regardless of age, the severity and frequency varies between children and adults.

Childhood asthma

Children are more likely to experience intermittent, episodic symptoms after exposure to a trigger. Essentially, they may show symptoms after coming in contact with a trigger, but they likely won’t be dealing with the effects on a day-to-day basis.

Adult-onset asthma

While children experience random episodes of asthma symptoms after exposure to a trigger, adults are more likely to experience the effects on a daily basis. Individuals who develop asthma as an adult or have a resurgence after outgrowing symptoms may require medication to combat the persisting effects.

Furthermore, the death rate for adult-onset asthma is significantly higher than the death rate for childhood asthma. Experts don’t fully understand why this occurs, but some believe adults may be more likely to ignore asthma symptoms or attribute them to other factors such as being overweight or natural aging.

Can you outgrow asthma?

If you or your child have asthma, you’ll be relieved to know that it is possible to outgrow the symptoms.

Of the approximately 7 million U.S. children with asthma, about half of them will outgrow it once they reach adolescence. Even if an individual outgrows asthma, it’s important to remember that the respiratory tract will remain sensitive to asthma triggers for life.

In fact, there’s a 25% chance that people whose symptoms disappear will see them reappear in varying degrees when they enter their late thirties or early forties. Researchers don’t fully understand why some individuals see a resurgence of symptoms, but they have noted that both old and new triggers can cause them in people with a history of asthma.

Control asthma triggers in your home or office

Common asthma triggers such as dust, pollen, chemicals, and mold can be found in almost every home or office. For asthma sufferers, the presence of these particles in the air can make breathing difficult in addition to countless other symptoms that make daily living harder.

Control the presence of airborne asthma triggers by using an air purifier such as the Alen BreatheSmart 75i True HEPA, which uses a 3-stage filtration process to capture 99.99% of particles down to 0.1 microns. In addition to asthma and allergies, this air purifier can also helps with other common air concerns such as VOCs, pet dander, bacteria, cooking odors, and more.

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The BreatheSmart 75i also features an intelligent sensor that changes color to let you know about the status of the indoor air quality around you. While operating at an incredibly quiet noise level, the BreatheSmart 75i emits a soothing pink noise perfectly tuned to a frequency that can help you sleep up to 25% better. Perfect for large rooms or open plan living spaces, the BreatheSmart 75i cleans 1,300 square feet of air every 30 minutes making it ideal for the living room or master bedroom.

Whether you have asthma, are worried about developing adult-onset asthma, or just want to provide cleaner air in your indoor space — Alen is here to help find the perfect air purifier for you.

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