Asthma is so associated with children that when an adult is diagnosed with the condition, it’s called “adult onset asthma.” It’s somewhat surprising that an equal percentage of adults and children in the United States – 8.3 percent – suffer from asthma, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

May is National Asthma and Allergy Awareness Month, a time to highlight the causes, symptoms and treatments of asthma and allergies. Yavapai Regional Medical Center (YRMC) is doing its part by featuring adult onset asthma, starting with how it’s different from childhood asthma.

Asthma is the same disease whether you’re five or 50. What’s different is how children and adults experience asthma. Kids often have intermittent asthma symptoms stemming from allergy triggers or respiratory infections. Adults typically experience persistent asthma symptoms: wheezing, coughing, shortness of breath, and chest tightness. It’s not uncommon for adults to think they have heart disease or lung disease until their healthcare provider diagnoses adult onset asthma.

Asthma Triggers
Asthma causes swelling and inflammation in the airways of the lungs. This makes your lungs sensitive to asthma “triggers” and can lead to asthma attacks. Common asthma triggers include:

  • Respiratory infections or colds
  • Cold temperatures
  • Dry air
  • Emotional stress or excitement
  • Exercise
  • Smoke
  • Mold and mildew
  • Air pollution
  • Feather bedding
  • Dust mites
  • Animal dander or saliva

Colds, Cats and More!
Allergies can make you more likely to develop adult onset asthma. In fact, approximately 30 percent of adult asthma cases begin when people are exposed to allergens and triggers. Other factors that increase your chances of developing adult onset asthma include:

  • Health History – If you had asthma as a child, you’re at risk for relapse in your 30s or 40s.
  • Weight – Obesity appears to increase the chances of developing asthma as an adult.
  • Gender –The hormonal changes women experience during pregnancy and menopause may lead to adult onset asthma.

What Can You Do About Asthma?
The first step is to get a definitive diagnosis from your healthcare provider. Your treatment plan may include regular medication and a “rescue” inhaler to help during an asthma attack in order to provide relief of asthma symptoms. Your provider will also advise you about what to do if your asthma symptoms get worse.

Talk to your provider about what you can do to manage asthma symptoms, such as allergy-proofing your home and workplace, and what asthmatic treatment options are available.

Make sure you get your annual flu shot and older adults should also ask their healthcare provider about the pneumonia vaccination.

Join YRMC’s Better Breathers Club
YRMC works with the American Lung Association to sponsor the Better Breathers Club in our community. This program connects people living with lung disease to education, support and each other. Participants learn ways to cope with lung conditions such as asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder (COPD) while getting the support of others in similar situations.

The Better Breathers Club is a fun and interesting combination of guest speakers and problem-solving discussions. Led by a YRMC Registered Respiratory Therapist, this adult support group meets the second Monday of the month from September through May.

Want to receive information about future Better Breathers Club meetings? Go to YRMC HealthConnect “Subscribe” and select “Better Breathers Club Support Group” from our menu of support groups and special interests.

Now that you understand adult onset asthma and know how it’s treated, YRMC hopes you’ll breathe easier.