Asthma is often thought of as a condition you get when you're a child, and for many, asthma does start in childhood. However, people can be diagnosed with asthma for the first time when they're adults, causing additional impact to their lives. This is known as 'adult onset asthma'.
In older people, the symptoms of asthma are less likely to be triggered by allergies such as house-dust mites, animals and pollen.
Symptoms in adults are more likely to be triggered by:
- flu, colds or other viral infections
- laughing or getting excited
- depression or anxiety
- some medicines
- irritants such as cigarette smoke, cold air, perfumes and chemical fumes.
For older people, shortness of breath may be the only symptom. However, it can be difficult to tell the difference between asthma and other conditions that cause similar symptoms, such as bronchitis, emphysema, heart disease and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), so it's sometimes difficult to diagnose asthma in older adults.