Common Asthma Triggers

In modern Western society, avoiding contact with the numerous pollutants and substances that can trigger an asthma attack is virtually impossible. In the home, the workplace, even in the air we breathe, we’re surrounded by an endless list of potential asthma triggers.

A vast range of stimuli can trigger asthma attacks. Chief culprits include dust mites, air conditioning (which cycles offending substances into the air we breathe) and something as simple as cat dander!

Individual asthmatics, however, tend to have their own “red-alert” triggers. The following is a list of common asthma triggers:

  • Alcohol
  • Air conditioning
  • Animal saliva and urine
  • Atmospheric ozone
  • Betel-nuts
  • Bird, dog and cat dander
  • Chemicals (e.g., hexachlorophene, formalin, ethylene diamine)
  • Cockroaches
  • Cold air
  • Colds and upper respiratory tract infections
  • Drugs (especially aspirin, cimetidine, antibiotics, beta blockers)
  • Dust
  • Dust mites
  • Emotional upset
  • Exertion (especially if strenuous and in cold air)
  • Food additives or preservatives (e.g., tartrazine, sulfur dioxide)
  • Fungal spores
  • Fumes (e.g., paint)
  • Gum acacia
  • Hair particle proteins
  • High humidity
  • House dust mite droppings
  • Kapok and feather stuffing (e.g., in pillows and cushions)
  • Metals (e.g., cobalt, platinum, nickel)
  • Nuts
  • Penicillin spores from moldy cheese
  • Plastics
  • PVC
  • Ragweed pollen (particularly in the USA)
  • Reflux of acid into the lower gullet
  • Rubber
  • Sawdust (especially oak, boxwood and cedar wood dust)
  • Shellfish
  • Smoke pollution
  • Solvents
  • Stress
  • Strong odors
  • Temperature/humidity changes
  • Tobacco
  • Tree and grass pollens
  • Vegetable dusts (e.g., coffee and castor bean).

Pet dander is simply dead skin flakes. The skin itself, or the fur on your pet is not the cause of your allergy. Rather a certain protein found in cat saliva and present on the dander is often the offending allergen.

Cat dander can remain in the environment for up to six months. Dander is somewhat sticky in nature. Although it can easily be removed from smooth surfaces, textured or porous surfaces such as sofas, carpets, cushions or wood paneling are more difficult to clean.

The Environment and Asthma Triggers

The increase in atmospheric pollution, especially in cities, is largely to blame for the rise in the incidence of asthma. Increases in industrial effluents and heavy concentrations of nitrogen oxides from motor vehicle exhausts help contribute to a declining air quality.

Studies have concluded that the ozone produced when sunlight reacts with these oxides are damaging to the ciliated lining of the airways.

Central air conditioning and heating systems tend to blow accumulated dust, cat dander, pollen, dust mites and other common allergens into the air. If the environment is moist, mold spores will also be part of the mix. Filters should be changed regularly and air ducts cleaned at least annually. Request that the company providing the cleaning service attends to all components of your system.

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