“What are actual causes for asthma in a child?” This query often brings parents to a physician. The question seems as if simple. But, there is no simple straight-shooting answer as to why asthma occurs in a child.

Asthma is a complex interplay between many factors. These factors in ‘early life’ determines who is at risk for asthma. In this blog we will decode what is asthma caused by, one by one.

What is ‘early life’ ?

Early life is the time since day of conception till a child becomes 3-4 years of age. 


So, this part of life includes not only the time when a child is growing inside mother’s womb, but also the period after birth. This timespan continues till a child attains 3-4 years of age. 


What is ‘window of opportunity’ ?

‘Early life’ is that stage of life which decides future health and disease of a child. You can say, it is the core foundation.

There are certain factors early in life, which influences who is at risk for asthma later. Let’s try to figure out causes for asthma in a child through following simulation.

Suppose we are sculpting a pot out of clay. When clay is wet and raw it can be given any shape like pot, cup, mug etc. But once it dries up and is heated, it can’t be reshaped, right!

Same is the case with human body. During early life, respiratory system ( lungs etc. ) and immune  system ( body defence mechanism ) are still undergoing maturation. So here is an ‘window period of opportunity’. Any change we make here have a lasting outcome.

What are causes for asthma in a child ?​

who is at risk for asthma ?

Let us understand why asthma occurs in only few specific children. Also let us find out who is at risk for asthma and how are you born with asthma. Here we have cited some lesser known causes for asthma, every parent must know.

1.Genetic and familial factors

Allergic diseases run in family. Being said that, if parents, siblings or relatives have allergic tendency then odds are high that child will be allergic too.

A triad of allergic diseases worth mentioning here are allergic rhinitis, skin allergy ( eczema ) and asthma. So if any family member has any of these allergies, child too is more likely to get asthma and other allergies.

So how are you born with asthma? Every human are born with a specific set of 30,000 genes. These genes are unique to each person. Our genes dictate everything, be it our physical appearance or which disease we will carry.

There are various genes for asthma as well. If a child has these set of genes then most likely s/he will develop asthma.

Special note : There is no single asthma gene, but are multiple genes which affects why asthma occurs.

2.Epigenetic factors


As said earlier, gene sequence of a person remains constant all through. It can’t be altered. However ‘epigenetic modification’ can change the whole game.

Genes don’t express the same way in everyone. In some individuals same gene will be expressed fully, in some partially. Whereas in others that gene though present will remain silent, and won’t express.

Epigenetic modifications are biochemical alteration in gene, that happens after birth or after conception. Owing to epigenetic changes, some genes will quieten and some will express louder.

Here is an example to simplify it. Traffic air pollution and cigarette smoke causes biochemical change in gene / DNA of a growing foetus ( e.g. DNA methylation ). Due to this remodelling, there occurs a switch in expression of genes that favours asthma. That’s the mechanism how is asthma caused by air pollution.

Thus epigenetic causes for asthma are drawing more and more attention of researchers these days.

3.Maternal age

Some studies reveal that child who is at risk for asthma is the one born out of a young mother.

If maternal age is more than 30 years then incidence of asthma is less. But again there are not enough concrete researches.

5.Maternal diet

Earlier people used to assume that if mother needs to avoid some particular food items, baby in uterus stays safe from allergies. But this claim is completely baseless. In fact it’s the reverse.

Evidently if certain food items are present in mother’s food while she is pregnant, then her baby will be more familiar with that food component. Consequently baby will be less likely to develop allergy or asthma. As it will not sense those components as something foreign.

This theory holds true for some foods like peanut but may not be true for others for example fish. 

Note : In no way give those foods to a pregnant mother what she is allergic to.

6.Omega-3 : Omega -6 fatty acid in mother

Not all fats are bad for you. Omega-3 fatty acids are those group of foods which are health-some. These have anti-inflammatory properties ( in other words prevents soreness ). Food rich in Omega -3 fatty acids during pregnancy can actually guard upcoming baby against asthma. 

On the other hand, omega-6 fatty acid has pro-inflammatory properties. That means it favours soreness. We know already that asthma is a disease of soreness ( chronic inflammation ). Thus pregnant mother’s diet rich in omega-6 fatty acid facilitates development of asthma in her child. 

Hence omega – 6 fatty acid in mother’s diet is one such hidden causes for asthma not many people know about. 


Hereinafter is a complete list of foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids and foods rich in omega-6 fatty acids. The ratio of omega – 3 : omega- 6 should be > 1. 

  • flax seed, chia seeds
  • Salmon, Sardine
  • Cod liver oil
  • Walnut
  • Salmon oil
  • Flax seed oil
  • Sunflower seeds
  • Pumpkin seeds
  • Canola oil
  • Corn oil
  • Sunflower oil
  • Soft Margarine

7.Complementary feed

Complementary food is that food other than breast milk, which is introduced to a baby initially. This process of instituting solid or semisolid food to a baby is called weaning. 

When weaning is started as soon as 6 months, it  helps to check allergy or asthma in a child later in life. 

8.Cigarette smoke

Studies state that when pregnant woman is exposed to cigarette smoke ( directly or indirectly) her baby is 2 times more likely to get asthma than usual. Even when mother uses e-cigarette, that’s also one of the important causes for asthma in baby.

After baby is born, indirect inhalation of tobacco smoke in early life, makes a baby more vulnerable to develop asthma later. Hence tobacco smoke exposure early in life impacts who is at risk for asthma. 

9.Vaginal delivery vs caesarean section

We all have a pool of good bacteria in our body, which is called as ‘microbiome’ or ‘microflora’. When these bacteria are is in gut, we term it as ‘gut flora’. When they are on skin, we call it ‘skin flora’.

Mode of delivery influences who is at risk for asthma. When a baby is born through vaginal delivery, it acquires microflora from mother, while passing through birth canal. This is self-protective from asthma and other allergies. 

In contrary babies born out of caesarean section are more prone to asthma or allergy later in life. 

10.Broad spectrum antibiotics use

If mother takes broad spectrum antibiotics during pregnancy, it alters bacterial flora in her baby. Thus making baby more liable for asthma.

Similarly children who are given broad spectrum antibiotics during infancy ( within first year ) or especially first month of life are more likely to grow into asthmatic in later age. 

Rampant use of broad spectrum antibiotics is one of the lesser known causes for asthma.

11.Acid suppressant in mother

When it comes to what is asthma caused by, acid suppressant use is also on the list.

If mother takes acid suppressant medications during pregnancy, it will again modifies microflora of baby growing inside her uterus. So, this baby is more susceptible to asthma

12.Breast milk vs Formula

Few researches report that taking breast milk protects from asthma. On the other hand, kids who took formula milk during infancy are more likely to develop asthma. 

As per updated GINA guidelines, formula milk instead of breast milk is one of the reason why asthma occurs in a child. Nonetheless this theory needs further research in future. 



There are so many insights about early life causes for asthma, which parents ought to know. This post is a tiny effort in the direction of spreading awareness about it. Besides this blog also explains details of how are you born with asthma. 


If you too feel these information about asthma can help parents, share this post with someone who needs it. Spread the word with near and dear ones. 


All the informations provided here are for educational and awareness purpose only. Kindly do not use these as alternative to medical consultation.


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