Adult Onset Asthma: Triggers to Avoid

Quincy AdamAsthma Lifestyle

Asthma Stress Pressure
Anytime asthma symptoms occur in adults older than 20, it is known as adult-onset asthma. In fact, according to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA), women are more likely to develop this condition after the age of 20. Its occurrence sometimes depends on an individual’s overall health, but external factors can also be a trigger.

Irritants in the Workplace

In industrialized nations, the most common form of adult-onset asthma is occupational asthma. Irritants in the workplace cause this type of asthma. Examples include chemicals, metals, enzymes, plant substances and smoke.


Obesity is, of course, at the root of many health issues. According to the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, the incidence of asthma increases by 50% in people who are overweight or obese1. They believe that losing weight dramatically decreases the risk of developing asthma. It’s just one more reason to stick to that diet and exercise plan.

Female Hormones

Women over 35 are 20% more likely to have asthma than males2. There appears to be a link between hormones and asthma. The longer a woman has been on the (birth control) pill, the less likely she is to have asthma. Post-menopausal women are less prone to have asthma than those in their reproductive years.

According to the AAFA, women going through menopause can develop asthma symptoms for the first time. If a post-menopausal woman chooses hormone replacement therapy, asthma symptoms may again increase. Thus, asthma is one more thing for women to consider when they make decisions regarding medications that affect their hormones.


Smoking may not be a cause of adult-onset asthma, but it could trigger the symptoms. This applies to smoke exposure as well as second-hand smoke.

A study was conducted in Finland of a group of people with newly diagnosed adult-onset asthma as well as a control group. The researchers gave a questionnaire that asked about exposure to secondhand smoke in the previous year as well as during the respondents’ lifetimes. The results showed 8% of new asthma cases were due to secondhand smoke. It appeared that continuous exposure to smoke in the workplace was even more dangerous than smoke at home.20

Lung function typically decreases as we age, and it appears smoking compounds this. If you need another incentive to quit tobacco use, add the risk of asthma to the list. Avoid smoking AND being in close contact with other people when they are smoking.


As we age, we are more likely to encounter more stressful events, such as the illness of a loved one, marital problems or divorce, financial challenges and work-related challenges. Assumptively, these events could be a trigger for adult-onset asthma. If you feel stressed by such events, try to lessen it. Talk to a friend (or doctor if needed), take a walk, or grab a 15-minute nap or some time each day to read or enjoy a hobby, even during stressful times.

Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease – Better Known as GERD

Gastroesophageal Disease (GERD) can result in adult-onset asthma. GERD causes the stomach acids to shoot back up in the esophagus, inflaming and irritating the airways. This process makes it harder to breathe. To avoid GERD, lose weight if you need to do so, cut back on alcohol, eat small meals, stay away from foods that cause acid reflux and avoid medications that increase your risk for GERD.

Chronic Sinusitis

Chronic sinusitis most often is caused by severe allergies or ongoing sinus infections. If you suffer from this, you could be prone to adult-onset asthma as well. Taking a decongestant or antihistamine could help relieve your sinus problem so you can breathe more easily.

Chronic Respiratory Infections

Respiratory infections such as bronchitis or pneumonia can also cause adult-onset asthma. The best way to prevent it is to stay healthy during cold and flu season. Keep your immune system strong with a well-balanced diet of fresh fruits and vegetables and plenty of rest.

Bottom Line: Staying away from these triggers whenever possible may prevent adult-onset asthma and help to ease the symptoms if you are already suffering from the disease.

1“Overweight, Obesity, and Incident Asthma”, American Journal Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, 175 (2007): 661–666, doi: 10.1164/rccm.200611-1717OC.
2“Gender differences in prevalence, diagnosis and incidence of allergic and non-allergic asthma: a population-based cohort,” NCBI,
3Maritta Jaakkola, Ritva Piipari, Niina Jaakkola, and Jouni Jaakola, “Environmental Tobacco Smoke and Adult-Onset Asthma: A Population-Based Incident Case—Control Study,”23 (2003): 2055-2060, American Journal of Public Health,