• Question: why do people get asthma

    Asked by caseyf to Angela, Gabriele, Karen, Maria, Shane on 15 Nov 2013.
    • Photo: Angela Stevenson

      Angela Stevenson answered on 15 Nov 2013:

      Great question Casey! Asthma is a terrible respiratory disease that affects a lot of people in the world. People get asthma attacks when their airways become inflamed upon exposure to an allergen. We believe that it is caused by a combination of environmental and genetic factors (so the genes that were passed on to you by your parents). You unfortunately can’t control your genetic makeup (that’s decided for you before you’re born), but you can control some of the environmental factors that cause asthmatic symptoms. Some common environmental triggers are allergens (like animal dander, dust mites), chemical fumes (for example chlorine, ammonia), air pollution (second hand smoke, emissions from gas stoves). Hope that helps!

    • Photo: Shane Mc Guinness

      Shane Mc Guinness answered on 19 Nov 2013:

      Yep, angela has covered this well. What is really cool is that asthma is now thought be caused mainly by the things that happen during your life and how you live, not just from the genes you were born with. This field of science is called “epigenetics” (literally, “on top of genetics”) and deals with how some the way our genes work in our everyday lives can be affected by what we expose our bodies too. In the case of asthma, this includes exposing ourselves to things like dust, fumes, cigarette smoke, etc. Because of this, the way our genes work in certain parts of our bodies (like our lungs) may actually change, giving us what we know as asthma!
      So, though you might be born with genes that give you a greater chance of getting asthma, it’s now believed that environmental factors can change the “expression” of these genes……