Symptoms, Facts, and Treatments for Adult-Onset Asthma

Updated on June 18, 2017
caseymel profile image

I developed adult-onset asthma two years ago. I'm still trying to get it under control with the help of my doctors.

Treatment and Symptoms of Asthma

Adult-Onset Asthma

I developed adult-onset asthma two years ago, and I am still trying to get it under control with the help of an allergist, pulmonologist and ENT (ear, nose and throat doctor).

Two years ago, I moved from the Midwest to the suburbs of Washington, D.C., in Northern Virginia.

While living in the Midwest, I had allergies. I only needed to take a Zyrtec a day, but I was okay. I did not have asthma then.

While I was living in the Midwest, I had my two children. I started noticing that I would get sinus infections more often. I related it to being around my two small children and all their playdate buddies.

When I moved to Virginia, I was okay for the first few months—but then the spring came. I developed an awful sinus infection and bronchitis.

The first doctor told me to rest and the bronchitis will go away with time. I didn't go back to him again.

I went to another doctor who told me I had a sinus infection and bronchitis. They put me on more allergy medicine, antibiotics and oral steroids. I started getting better, but about a week or so after I finished my medicine, the sinus infection and bronchitis and sinus infection came back and it was worst.

I then had an asthma attack in the middle of the night and was rushed to the ER. I could not breathe. I felt like I couldn't get air into my lungs. The ER doctor did a couple breathing treatments before I could breathe better and did tons of tests. That is when I found out I had asthma.

Once I finished the antibiotics and oral steroids the ER doctor gave me, I was better for about two weeks and then I went downhill again. Luckily the ER doctor also gave me an albuteral inhaler to maintain my lung function and to take in case I felt another asthma attack coming on.

The ER doctor gave me a referral to an ENT (ear, nose and throat doctor). I saw him since I still wasn't feeling well and I was wheezing constantly. He gave me another round of steroids and antibiotics.

After three different rounds of antibiotics and three rounds of oral steroids, I finally started feeling a little better, but not completely.

The ENT doctor gave me a referral to an allergist. The allergist ran an allergy test where she pricked me with 40 different needles coated in different allergens.

I found out I was allergic to almost everything outside, inside and tree nuts. She gave me some allergy medicine and started me on allergy shots since my asthma is induced by allergies.

My allergist also gave me a referral to a pulmonologist since the medicine was not helping me completely.

Asthma Inhaler

Using an asthma inhaler
Using an asthma inhaler | Source

What Triggers Adult-Onset Asthma?

Anything that irritates your lungs could trigger adult-onset asthma. For me, it was a bout of bronchitis and moving to an area that is full of allergens that I am allergic to.

Some common triggers of adult-onset asthma include:

  • Recurring childhood illnesses (e.g., bronchitis, pneumonia)
  • Smoking
  • Allergens
  • Dust
  • Infections (e.g., pneumonia, bronchitis, flu)
  • Some medications (e.g., beta-blockers and NSAID)
  • Allergy-prone foods (e.g., nuts, seafood, etc.)

Some people with adult-onset asthma may have had it (undiagnosed) as a child and not know it. The symptoms could have gone away for years and come back later in life.

Asthma Symptoms

  • Wheezing (this is the most common symptom for adults). This sounds like a whistling sound coming from your lungs when you breath.
  • Persistent cough
  • Tightness in chest
  • Feeling of gunk / mucous in the lungs
  • Tire easily on high trigger days
  • The feeling that you cannot get enough air in and out of your lungs

Asthma Poll

Do You Have Asthma?

See results

Other Ailments That Resemble Asthma

  • Acid Reflux (or GERD) - Acid that rises from the stomach can make its way up the esophagus and into the lungs and nasal cavity. When the acid reaches the throat, it causes a person to cough. When stomach acid reaches the lungs and/or nasal cavity, they create more mucous to get rid of the irritant. Excess mucous production, wheezing and coughing are a couple symptoms that asthma and acid reflux share.
  • Sinusitis - Swollen sinuses create more mucous, which can get into the lungs and cause irritation.
  • Allergies - When you come in contact with an allergen, your body creates more mucous to capture and get rid of the allergen. The mucous can get into the lungs and cause wheezing.

All of these ailment areas are connected by the airway. When one area is affected, other areas can be affected as well. Many people who have asthma, also have allergies and / or acid reflux.

Asthma Medication Inhaler


5 Summer Allergy & Asthma Triggers

  • Summer Fruits and Vegetables
  • Changes in Weather
  • Campfire Smoke
  • Stinging Insects
  • Chlorine

5 Summer Allergy and Asthma Triggers

  • Summer fruits and vegetables - Fresh fruits and vegetables may have pollen on them from allergy inducing plants like trees, weeds and grass.
  • Changes in weather -When the weather shifts from humid to dry or a cool wind picks up, it could cause problems for asthma sufferers. Wind also picks up plant and mold and makes it easier to breathe in causing asthma attacks induced by allergies.
  • Campfire smoke - Breathing in any kind of smoke irritates the lungs and could trigger an asthma attack.
  • Stinging Insects - Some people have an allergic reaction to insect stings. With an allergic reaction, a person could have an asthma attack.
  • Chlorine - Chlorine in pools can cause irritation in the lungs when breathed in, resulting in an asthma attack.

Asthma Attack Triggers

Animal Dander
Weather Changes
Cardio Workouts
The many causes

Understanding Asthma

Other Causes Of Asthma Attacks

  • Pollution - When asthma sufferers breathe in pollution, it inflames the lungs, which can result in an asthma attack.
  • Allergies - Allergy-Induced Asthma (this is the one I have) is induced by allergy triggers like pet dander, pollen, mold, dust and some foods.
  • Exercise - Exercise-Induced Asthma is caused when a person who has asthma does cardio workouts. The action of breathing in and out deeply sets the lungs off for an allergic reaction.
  • Weather - Any change in weather is tough on the lungs of a person with asthma.

Asthma Action Plan

Asthma Action Plan
Asthma Action Plan | Source

Summing Up Adult-Onset Asthma

To sum it up, adults can develop asthma, even if they have never had it as a kid.

Adult-onset asthma usually begins after a some type of lung virus or bacterial infection.

Sometimes, even moving to another area with more allergens could trigger adult-onset asthma.

Once you develop adult-onset asthma, you most likely will have it for the rest of your life.

Adults with asthma will need to take a maintenance inhaler and medicine to calm the allergies, if the asthma is induced by allergies.

Anyone with asthma needs to watch out for things that trigger an asthma attack like pollution, allergens, smoke, changes in weather and some medications.

Once you have asthma, you need to maintain it with medication and by staying away from things that trigger it to make sure it doesn't get out of control and turn into an asthma attack.

Questions & Answers


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      • caseymel profile image

        caseymel 4 years ago from Indiana

        I didn't even think about that since I use liquid body wash. That's one more thing we have to watch out for!

      • profile image

        denisefenimore 4 years ago

        What is bad is bar soaps don't list ingredients! I was using a new bar of soap once and the moment it hit my skin it felt like my skin was on fire. Now I only use liquid soap that clearly shows the ingredients!

      • caseymel profile image

        caseymel 4 years ago from Indiana

        Thanks Denise! Asthma is awful! I have had the same thing happen as you. I am allergic to Brazil Nuts. I was using a new shampoo through Aveeno, but my scalp was breaking out and itchy. My hair looked awful. I finally figured it out when I looked at the ingredient list and saw that it contained Brazil Nuts!

      • profile image

        denisefenimore 4 years ago

        Great work! I too have adult asthma. I discovered I not only had tree allergies, but was now allergic to almonds, which are now put in hair shampoos, conditioners and skin lotions! I can be at the grocery store and pass someone and I'll begin to sneeze or cough uncontrollably. Thank goodness for rescue inhalers! Sometimes I even have had to leave the store to recover and go somewhere else to shop.

      • caseymel profile image

        caseymel 4 years ago from Indiana

        Biloxi, Mississippi and the whole East Coast make my allergies go in to overdrive. I hope that the allergy shots I get each week help because I love living in Virginia! (-:

      • The Examiner-1 profile image

        The Examiner-1 4 years ago


        I do not have asthma, but I do have allergies, like hay fever, and I remember that when I lived in AZ my allergies calmed down a good bit.

      • caseymel profile image

        caseymel 4 years ago from Indiana

        It surprised me that medicine and other medical conditions could cause asthma-like symptoms or exacerbate asthma symptoms.

        I will be making a trip out to the Midwest this Summer. It will be interesting to see if my asthma calms down while I am out there. I wonder if it is due to the allergens around my new home in Virginia. My asthma is induced by allergies.

      • Sue Bailey profile image

        Susan Bailey 4 years ago from South Yorkshire, UK

        I'm a bit wheezy these days but I think it's the beta blockers after reading this.

      • The Examiner-1 profile image

        The Examiner-1 4 years ago

        I am glad that the asthma is better, perhaps the medicine will get better soon too.

      • caseymel profile image

        caseymel 4 years ago from Indiana

        The Examiner-1: Thanks! Little by little, the Doctors and I are getting my asthma under control. It's much better than it was last year, but I'm also on tons of medicine.

        Abby: We live in Victory Lakes. Kingsbrooke is really close to us. I always pass it when I go up Linton Hall.

      • Abby Campbell profile image

        Abby Campbell 4 years ago from Charlotte, North Carolina

        Wow, it is a small world! We lived in Kingsbrooke. Which subdivision do you live?

      • The Examiner-1 profile image

        The Examiner-1 4 years ago

        I do not have it (thankfully), I am sorry that you do. This looks helpful for others who do have it.

      • caseymel profile image

        caseymel 4 years ago from Indiana


        Wow! What a small world! We just moved to Bristow 2 years ago from the Midwest. That's when my asthma began. It seems like so many people in this area have sinus and/or lung issues. I hope you feel better too! Asthma is no fun!

      • Abby Campbell profile image

        Abby Campbell 4 years ago from Charlotte, North Carolina

        Thank you for a great hub on adult onset asthma, caseymel. I had asthma as a child. It went away in my late teens. Now I'm 45, and it re-occured early his year when the trees were in bloom. At first, I thought it would be temporary allergies. However, it lingered on. I knew I had no sinus infection, but that persistent cough bugged me continuously. Thankfully, after nearly 4 months, it's beginning to subside. I do hope you feel better soon. This has been a bad year for many people who don't normally have asthma or symptoms.

        BTW, I'm from Northern Virginia (Bristow/Gainesville) as well. Well, it's my home, but I moved to Charlotte about 8 years ago. I still have lots of family in Northern Virginia though.

      • jabelufiroz profile image

        Firoz 4 years ago from India

        Helpful content on asthma. Voted up.

      • tirelesstraveler profile image

        Judy Specht 4 years ago from California

        Well written. Asthma is fickle. Learning symptoms of on set is vital to control.

      • caseymel profile image

        caseymel 4 years ago from Indiana

        Thanks Sue! Until 2 years ago, when I was diagnosed with Adult-Onset Asthma, I had no idea that an adult could get Asthma. I've learned a lot about Asthma in the last 2 years. (-:

      • Sue Bailey profile image

        Susan Bailey 4 years ago from South Yorkshire, UK

        Voted up and shared. Very informative and useful post.