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Can You Develop Asthma Later in Life?

Ask a Doctor

It seems as if my seasonal allergies get worse every year, despite my medication. This year, the season passed and I still have fits of coughing where I can hardly breathe. From some research I’ve done, I’m worried I’m experiencing the early symptoms of asthma, even though I’m 43 years old. Can you develop asthma later in life?

Doctor’s Response

Asthma can develop later in life in the form of adult onset asthma. The symptoms of asthma in adults are the same as in children and include intermittent wheezing, coughing, and chest tightness. Adults with asthma are also more likely to have shortness of breath.

Asthma in children is typically intermittent and usually triggered by allergies or infections, while asthma symptoms in adults are often persistent and may require daily medications.

About 30% of cases of adult asthma are triggered by allergies. Other causes of adult onset asthma include exposure to irritants at the workplace, hormonal changes in women, and viruses or other infections. Smoking is not a cause of adult onset asthma but it may trigger symptoms.

Adults can also have other problems that limit airflow, including COPD, bronchiolitis obliterans, and central airway obstruction, so it is important to rule out other causes of the symptoms.

For more information, read the full medical article on asthma.

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Reviewed on 4/9/2019
Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America New England Chapter. Adult Onset Asthma. 2018. 21 November 2018 .

Carlos A Vaz Fragoso, MD. Diagnosis and management of asthma in older adults. 14 May 2018. 21 November 2018 .