Updated 25 January 2019

Asthma risk factors

Are you at risk for asthma? Check if the following risk factors apply to you.

Many factors out of your control may influence your risk for asthma. These include:

  • A family history. You’re more likely to develop asthma if some of your family members have allergies or asthma themselves.
  • Gender. In children, asthma is more common in boys than in girls; in young adults, men and women are equally affected.
  • Recurrent chest infections as a baby / toddler.
  • Allergies. Research shows that atopic dermatitis (a type of eczema), hay fever and asthma are all interlinked.
  • Exposure to allergens (like dust mites, cats, dogs and pollen) as a baby / child.
  • Occupational factors. There are many allergens in the workplace.

Risk factors over which you may have some control include:

  • Psychological stress.
  • Exposure to tobacco smoke. Note that smoking during pregnancy may also increase a child’s risk for asthma.
  • Infections. Importantly, children who are wheezing as a result of respiratory syncytial virus are at greater risk for asthma. This virus, which resembles the common cold, is very common in children.
  • Overweight / obesity.

Reviewed by independent healthcare consultant Prof Praneet Valodia and pulmonologist Prof Elvis Irusen, Head of the Division of Pulmonology at the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, Stellenbosch University. October 2018.

Read more:

- Asthma prevention

- How is asthma treated?


Ask the Expert

Asthma Expert

Professor Keertan Dheda has received of several prestigious awards including the 2014 Oppenheimer Award, and has published over 160 peer-reviewed papers and holds 3 patents related to new TB diagnostic or infection control technologies. He serves on the editorial board of the journals PLoS One, the International Journal of Tuberculosis and Lung Disease, American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Medicine, Lancet Respiratory Diseases and Nature Scientific Reports, amongst others.Read his full biography at the University of Cape Town Lung Institute

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