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Can Older People Get Asthma
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Many people who develop asthma as adults had breathing problems as children.  Asthma is a breathing problem that can start at any age.  There are also people who have asthma as children and it goes away as they grow older.  It may come back later in life.  Some people get asthma for the first time when they are older.

Asthma is a breathing problem that makes it more difficult for you to get air in and out of your lungs.  When a person has asthma, the breathing tubes are sensitive.  This extra sensitivity triggers reactions to smoke, pollen, dust, air pollution, and allergies.  The breathing tubes may tighten, become inflamed and swell.  When the breathing tubes react or get inflamed, they become narrow and this makes it harder for you to breathe fresh air in and stale air out.

In older people, it is sometimes difficult for the doctor to determine whether the problem is asthma or another lung disease or heart disease.  Other lung diseases, particularly in people who smoke, which cause similar problems, are:

  • Bronchitis
  • Emphysema

The most common symptoms of asthma are:

  • A wheezing sound when you breathe, sometimes only when you have a cold.
  • Cough:  You may cough up mucus; the cough is present often and may last more than a week.
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing only now and then, or you may have problems often.  The feeling is as if you can’t get enough air into your lungs.
  • Tightness in the chest may occur in cold weather or during exercise.
  • Chest tightness may be one of the first signs that your asthma is getting worse.

Asthma is a serious and continuing health problem.  There is good news for those who suffer with asthma.  It can be treated successfully.  People with asthma can live normal, productive lives with regular medical care from an experienced doctor.  Without proper treatment, however, asthma can be extremely dangerous and even fatal.

Scientists are unsure why some people have asthma and others do not.  The tendency to have asthma may be inherited.  Other factors may also be involved.  Those factors may include:

  • Smoking cigarettes, cigars, pipes or anything else increases the risk of developing asthma symptoms.  Secondary smoke increases the risk of asthma for children or anyone around the secondary smoke.  It is wise to avoid smoke and people who smoke.
  • Asthma can run in families.  It may be more common in certain Hispanic people, such as those who come from Puerto Rico.
  • Having a blood relative such as a father, mother, sister, brother, son, or daughter with asthma creates a higher risk of getting asthma.
  • People who are allergic to pollen, pets, or dust are at higher risk of developing asthma.

Some medications such as those to treat heart disease and high blood pressure may cause asthma symptoms or make asthma worse.  Be sure your doctor and pharmacist know all the medications you are taking. 

Keep an up-to-date list of all medications you use, both prescriptions and over-the-counter medicines.

By Connie Limon
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