Understanding Risks

Asthma and Genetics

Millions of people in the United States have asthma, and it's estimated that more than 150 million people around the world suffer from this disease. As a result, billions of dollars in research have been spent learning about this disease, much like many others including cancer and even the common cold.

Many different issues have been studied, including the causes of asthma, the potential for a cure for asthma and how to properly manage the condition on a daily basis. Naturally, many of the people who have asthma have been thinking about having children. It's only normal for them to think about whether or not they are risking the passing of asthma onto their children.


The answer can be viewed statistically in a certain sense, but the overall conclusion is not completely clear. In fact, this issue often divides itself into the age–old nature/nurture dichotomy, which is explored below.

Nature – Genetics

Many studies have been performed that were intended to find and identify a gene or group of genes that are linked to the development of asthma in a person. While some have identified groupings, to date no specific gene has been targeted as the overriding cause of asthma.

Generally speaking, if both parents have asthma, it's estimated that their children will have anywhere between a 50% and 65% of inheriting the disease. Interestingly, early indications are that if only one parent has asthma, the chances of it passing onto a couple's children are greater if the female is the one with the condition.

Nurture – Environment

However, other studies have been done, most involving identical twins, that tend to fly in the face of the statistics noted above. Specifically, identical twins have nearly identical genetics and DNA, which should lead to the logical conclusion that if the parents have asthma, the children will as well.

That has not turned out to be the case as of yet. In cases where the identical twins were raised in different environments, there are far too many instances in which one twin developed asthma while the other did not to be able to ignore. The logical conclusion that can be drawn from these results is that a child's environment and exposure to certain asthma triggers is also a relevant factor in the ultimate determination of whether someone will develop the condition.

What this all seems to indicate is that if you have asthma and do not think you should have children as a result, perhaps it's time to rethink that conclusion. It's far from certain that this will turn out to be true, and you should still take steps to provide an environment as free of triggers as possible.