Gender and Asthma: Why Sex Matters

Although many people assume that asthma affects males and females equally, it's becoming increasingly clear to the medical community that respiratory health is handled differently by women and men.  Researchers from the Ohio State University Medical Center found that when you compare men and women with similar asthma conditions, women will be apt to perceive their symptoms as more serious. Women will also seek medical care for asthma more often than men and are three times more likely to be admitted to the hospital for asthma. However, more women die from asthma than men, reinforcing the fact that it may impact them more seriously. These findings were included in the January 2011 issue of Current Opinion in Pulmonary Management.

The Facts about Gender and Asthma

It's also interesting to note that these asthma gender differences don't exist right from birth, but come about later in life. In fact in childhood, it's actually boys-not girls-who are at higher risk of being affected by this chronic condition. But the tables turn sometime after puberty.

Why Asthma Affects Genders Differently

The reason for the gender differences in adulthood can be traced to a number of factors. For instance, researchers believe that women may be more aware of their symptoms and have a higher level of anxiety than males who experience a similar level of discomfort. It's also thought that women may have more sensitive airways that are more likely to overreact to common triggers. In addition, fluctuating female hormones that are associated with menstrual cycles and pregnancy may make women more susceptible to suffering from asthma symptoms.

What You Can Do

Regardless of why females seem to have a higher asthma risk factor than males, the bottom line is that women and men may need to address their asthma conditions differently in order to best manage their symptoms. Therefore, if you're a woman, it's important to ask your doctor about your concerns and find out how to best tailor your asthma-management plan to respond to your specific needs and risk factors. Your doctor can work with you to incorporate steps that take into account any gender specific triggers. This can be anything from increasing your control medications during certain points of your menstrual cycle to closely monitoring your peak flow during pregnancy to deep breathing exercises to help manage the discomfort that goes along with an asthma flare up.

The key is to remember that with proper care and management, you can stay on top of your asthma and keep it under control regardless of your gender.




"Asthma, the Sex Difference." Current Opinion in Pulmonary Medicine, Volume 17, Issue 1, January 2011. Web. 3 April 2011.

"Gender Differences in Asthma Development and Progression." Gender Medicine, Supplement 4: B:S133-46, 2007. Web. 3 April. 2011.

"What Does Sex have to do With Asthma?" Ohio State University Medical Center. Ohio State University, 7 March 2011. Web. 3 April 2011.