Risk factors

A number of risk factors can increase a person’s chances of developing asthma.

Genetics, or family history of asthma, raise a person’s likelihood of developing asthma at some point in their life.

Other risk factors for asthma include:

  • being overweight
  • smoking
  • having allergies or other allergy-related conditions
  • frequent exposure to secondhand smoke
  • exposure to other forms of pollution, such as exhaust fumes
  • exposure to occupational irritants, including chemicals and dust


Asthma symptoms and their severity vary by person. Some may have symptoms frequently, while other people may only experience them occasionally.

Asthma symptoms can include:

  • wheezing
  • chest tightness
  • difficulty breathing
  • shortness of breath
  • coughing

Sometimes, triggers can cause a short period of worsening symptoms called asthma attacks. When a person has an asthma attack, their bronchial tubes constrict.

During an asthma attack, the symptoms of asthma may become severe and need a rescue inhaler or, in some cases, emergency medical attention.

Symptoms of an asthma attack include:

  • a feeling of the chest rapidly tightening
  • rapid breathing
  • a blue tint to the skin and nails
  • shortness of breath not related to physical activity
  • chest retractions
  • an inability to take a full breath

Not all people with asthma have all of these symptoms. Also, just because a person has these symptoms, it does not mean that they have asthma.



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