How Childhood and Adult-Onset Asthma Differ

Over 25 million people in the United States have asthma. It’s a condition that must be treated, or you risk doing permanent damage to your lungs. Unfortunately, asthma at any age cannot be cured, only controlled and managed. While there are similarities, childhood and adult-onset asthma differ.

At Allergy Asthma & Immunology Institute in Leesburg, Virginia we offer long term asthma strategies or same-day appointments for urgent situations. Laura Ispas, MD, discovers each patient’s allergies and triggers and creates a specialized plan to treat those specific concerns. Controlling your asthma is a long term process, but one that can be done. 

Childhood asthma

For both children and adults, asthma affects the lungs by making the airway linings inflamed or swollen, narrowed because of muscle contractions, or filled with large amounts of thick mucus. While symptoms are similar, there are differences. A virus, cold, flu or infection can trigger asthma in both children and adults. 

Pediatric asthma is a serious chronic disease and is also the most common, affecting 8.4% of children. It’s not easy to diagnose, but if you notice your infant or child wheezing, coughing, having difficulty breathing, being unusually tired, and complaining that his/her chest hurts, come see us right away. Treating this condition is essential, as the right medication will help the lungs develop properly as the child moves into adulthood. 

With some kids, you notice the symptoms only when they’re active or playing sports, which is known as exercise-induced bronchospasm. Allergies, family history, frequent chest and respiratory infections, and second-hand smoke are also potential causes for asthma. Dr. Ispas’ expert training helps her diagnose and treat childhood asthma.

Adult-onset asthma

When symptoms appear or a diagnosis is made after age 20, it’s considered adult-onset asthma. An adult’s asthma symptoms are usually persistent, while a child’s may be intermittent. This means adults may need daily medication, while children may only when they have an asthma attack. Other factors contribute to adult-onset asthma that don’t affect children.

Certain workplaces and regular exposure to chemicals and toxins can cause asthma in adults. Almost 30% of adult asthma is caused by allergies, including smoke, mold, dust and even cats. GERD (chronic heartburn and acid reflux) can also be a factor. For women, changes in hormones can contribute to asthma, and this includes pregnancy, menopause and taking estrogen for an extended period.

Treatments for a healthy and active life

It takes an expert to properly diagnose asthma and Dr. Ispas performs both a breathing study and a pulmonary function test. This includes spirometry, where you breathe into a tube to measure the air you take in and out, and doing the same test when inhaling methacholine. Both shows her the health and condition of your lungs. 

We then need to understand what triggers your symptoms and address those. They can include allergens, respiratory tract infections, activity and exercise, and even emotions. If you have allergy-induced asthma, Dr. Ispas performs a full allergy test. Keep in mind that adult-onset allergies can also occur, and immunotherapy (allergy) shots help. 

For the specific asthma symptoms, we prescribe an inhaler or nebulizer for almost immediate relief during an attack or long term medication in the form of pills or an inhaler. Asthma at any age cannot be cured, but it can be treated. Let us help you live a healthy and active life. Call us or use the convenient “Request Appointment” button here.

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