Environmental Factors and Asthma

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This paper discusses asthma and the environmental risk factors that can cause or initiate asthma symptoms. Asthma is an airway disease that can arise from a genetic background and common exposures to allergens and airborne irritants. Since major industrialization in Western, European, and Asian countries; there has been a rapid rise in the occurrence of asthma. More adults and children spend the majority of their time indoors. Indoor and outdoor air pollution has had an effect on this increase of asthmatic individuals. Non-allergic environmental risk factors include, occupational asthma due to chemicals and fumes within the work place. It also includes, exercise induced asthma, especially outdoors in high traffic areas. Allergens are a principal factor in causing asthma symptoms to occur. Allergic asthma is much more common than non-allergic asthma. Allergen triggers include pet dander, pests, dust mites, and mold. Environmental tobacco smoke plays a major role in the exacerbation of asthma attacks. Secondhand smoke is associated with many other health issues, such as lung cancer and respiratory diseases.

Many pulmonary disorders are caused by viral and bacterial infections; however, this is not true for asthma. Asthma is a chronic disease of the respiratory system. “Asthma inflames and narrows the airways making it more difficult for the individual to breathe in and out” (Schroeder, 2010). When an asthma patient suffers from asthma, their symptoms include, tightening of the chest, wheezing, coughing and trouble with breathing. The majority of asthma cases are identified during childhood, but a person can suffer from asthma at any age. “Asthma affects approximately 16.4 million adults and 7 million children in the United States” (Schroeder, 2010). Genetics do play a role in the development of asthma. “Approximately 40 percent of children who have asthmatic parents will develop asthma” (Schroeder, 2010).

Asthma can be triggered and exacerbated by exposure to many environmental factors. “Asthma and allergies have a strong hereditary and hence genetic component that likely works by modifying responses to ubiquitous environmental exposures.” (Gilmour, Jaakola, London, Nel, and Rogers, 2006). Our indoor and outdoor environment has many allergens. Asthma can be categorized as non-allergic or allergic. “Non-allergic asthma can be caused by certain factors such as viruses, anxiety, stress, and exercise, cold or dry air and by smoke” (Schroeder, 2010). Non-allergic asthma can be classified as occupational, which is related to working in an environment with strong fumes or chemicals that can be a trigger for asthma. The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease reports, “approximately 15%–25% of adults with asthma may have work-related asthma.” Working around or directly with cleaning products such as chlorine and ammonia can trigger asthmatic reactions. Medication-induced asthma is caused by “medications such as aspirin or other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs for short) can trigger asthma symptoms” (Schroeder, 2010). Exercise-induced asthma can be triggered by exercising or physical exertion. “During exercise there is an increase in ventilation, which leads to a loss of heat and water from the bronchial mucosa in an attempt to warm and humidify the incoming air, and can contribute to airway obstruction” (Schroeder, 2010). When an individual experiences allergic asthma, the airways become hypersensitive to the allergens that you have become sensitized to. Allergic asthma is triggered by inhaled allergens “such as dust mite allergen, pet dander, pollen or mold” (Schroeder, 2010). Once the allergens are inhaled into the airway, the immune system overreacts. When the immune system overreacts, a bronchospasm occurs, which is when the muscles around the airways tighten. The airways themselves are then inflamed and inundated with thick mucus. According to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America,...
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