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Is Asthma Hereditary or Environmental?: What Are the Factors

Written by Stephanie Nera, RPh, PharmD · Pharmacology

Updated Jun 22, 2021

Is Asthma Hereditary or Environmental?: What Are the Factors

If you have ever been called a “carbon copy” of one of your parents, you already know how powerful hereditary traits can be. For better or worse, our family history and genetics play a big role in determining how we look and what diseases we may develop. Many people already know that conditions such as obesity, diabetes, and hypertension run in families. If you have asthma, you may be worried about passing it on to your children. Is asthma hereditary? Can we prevent it? We will answer these questions and more in this article.

Breathing Exercises To Reduce Asthma Attacks

Is Asthma Hereditary?

Like many diseases, asthma does seem to have a strong genetic component. There isn’t a single gene responsible for asthma but several have been investigated. These genes are partially responsible for the body’s immune response to triggers and remodeling of the airways in asthma. Increased mucus production and sensitivity to allergens are just two of the consequences of these genes. 

Predisposing factors of asthma

  • Having a parent or sibling with asthma
  • History of allergies (e.g. food allergies, rhinitis) or atopy (e.g. dermatitis, eczema)
  • Respiratory infections during childhood (e.g. RSV, pneumonia, COVID-19)
  • Exposure to pollution
  • Tobacco smoking or secondhand smoke exposure
  • Occupational/workplace exposure (e.g. dust, chemicals)
  • Obesity

Can We Prevent Asthma?

Now that we know that asthma can be hereditary, does that mean it is inevitable if you have a family history of asthma? No, this is not entirely true. Even with advances in technology and gene studies, it is impossible to predict the future. While having a direct family member (parents or siblings) with asthma increases your chance of developing it, it is never a guarantee.

Avoid allergens

Environmental factors also influence the development of asthma, especially in people with a family history of asthma or atopy. Having allergies to food, dust, or pet dander can predispose you to develop asthma.

Smoking tobacco not only increases your chances of developing lung cancer, but also your risk of asthma and COPD. Secondhand smoke also carries this risk. Therefore, avoid these allergens or triggers when possible.

Be up-to-date with your vaccines

Additionally, getting vaccinated against preventable illnesses can reduce the risk of asthma later on. Some of the most important vaccines for potential asthmatics to receive are the flu, pneumococcal, varicella, and DTaP or Tdap vaccines. Because people with asthma are more at risk of developing more severe COVID infections, getting a COVID vaccine is also recommended.

Prepare during pregnancy

is asthma hereditary

Pregnant women can also influence their baby’s risk of developing or preventing asthma. According to the latest GINA report, mothers who ate food that commonly trigger allergies like peanuts and milk during pregnancy actually decreased the risk of allergies and asthma in their children. However, doctors do not yet recommend a specific diet for pregnant mothers to prevent allergies and asthma.

On the other hand, smoking or secondhand smoke exposure during pregnancy increases the risk of the child developing asthma later on.

Take medicines only when needed

Medications such as paracetamol and NSAIDs are useful and generally safe to reduce pain and fevers. However, studies have shown that frequent use can increase the risk of developing asthma or triggering an attack.

The reason for this is because some NSAIDs like aspirin and ibuprofen can to increase the production of leukotrienes. Leukotrienes are chemicals that trigger inflammation, mucus production, and airway tightening. All of these symptoms are also experienced during an asthma attack.

Key Takeaways

In summary, asthma is hereditary and environmental. Someone with a family history of asthma or atopy coupled with a number of environmental exposures has a greater chance of developing asthma than only one of these factors. Proper nutrition, routine vaccinations, and avoiding allergens are some of the ways to prevent asthma even if you have a family history. Talk to a doctor for a full evaluation to see if you are at risk or already have asthma.

Learn more about Asthma here. 


Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Written by

Stephanie Nera, RPh, PharmD


Updated Jun 22, 2021

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