Asthma does run in some families, but just because you have asthma it doesn’t mean that your child will definitely be affected too. Asthma can also appear unexpectedly in families that haven’t experienced it before, because the causes can be quite complex.
Genetics and Asthma
Children who have a family history of asthma are more likely to develop the condition themselves, so there is definitely a hereditary component to it. In fact, there are several conditions linked to the immune system that all seem to be linked. If there are people with asthma, eczema, hay fever or other allergies in your family, then it is more likely for children to have asthma (or another one of these conditions).
Asthma is hereditary, but the genetics of asthma are quite complicated. It seems that we can inherit genes that increase the chances of developing asthma, rather than a gene that will always result in this condition. For example, if one identical twin has asthma then the chances of the other twin being affected are 1 in 3. Even though they have exactly the same genes, one twin can be affected while the other is not.
Other Risk Factors for Asthma
Asthma runs in some families, but the environment that we grow up in can also affect our chances of developing the condition.
Children are more likely to be affected if they:
- Are exposed to tobacco smoke (the chemicals can linger in a room or car for several hours, so it is important not to allow smoking in any environment where children will spend time)
- Live in a city where the air is polluted or are exposed to a lot of indoor air pollution such as mould or fumes from cleaning products
- Are overweight
- Were born prematurely
- Had a lot of respiratory infections such as bronchiolitis when they were young
Will My Child Have Asthma?
If you have asthma, then your child is more likely to be affected too, especially if their other parent also has the condition. However, it is possible for two parents with asthma to have a child who is unaffected.
We don’t yet know enough about the genetics and causes of asthma to predict which children will develop the condition. We can’t know for sure if your child will be affected. However, if there is asthma in your family or your child is at higher risk for any other reason, it is important for you to be aware of the signs. If you notice that your child is often wheezing, coughing or short of breath then you should see a doctor to find out if it could be asthma. You should also be particularly careful about avoiding smoking and reducing exposure to other risk factors such as air pollution too.