Asthma (cont.)

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Which triggers can cause an asthma attack?

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Asthma symptoms may be activated or aggravated by many agents. Not all asthmatics react to the same triggers. Additionally, the effect that each trigger has on the lungs varies from one individual to another. In general, the severity of your asthma depends on how many agents activate your symptoms and how sensitive your lungs are to them. Most of these triggers can also worsen nasal or eye symptoms.

Triggers fall into two categories:

  • allergens ("specific");
  • nonallergens -- mostly irritants (nonspecific).

Once your bronchial tubes (nose and eyes) become inflamed from an allergic exposure, a re-exposure to the offending allergens will often activate symptoms. These "reactive" bronchial tubes might also respond to other triggers, such as exercise, infections, and other irritants. The following is a simple checklist.

Common asthma triggers: Allergens

  • "seasonal" pollens
  • year-round dust mites, molds, pets, and insect parts
  • foods, such as fish, egg, peanuts, nuts, cow's milk, and soy
  • additives, such as sulfites
  • work-related agents, such as latex, epoxides, and formaldehyde


  • respiratory infections, such as those caused by viral "colds," bronchitis, and sinusitis
  • drugs, such as aspirin, other NSAIDs (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs), and beta blockers (used to treat blood pressure and other heart conditions)
  • tobacco smoke
  • outdoor factors, such as smog, weather changes, and diesel fumes
  • indoor factors, such as paint, detergents, deodorants, chemicals, and perfumes
  • nighttime
  • GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disorder)
  • exercise, especially under cold dry conditions
  • work-related factors, such as chemicals, dusts, gases, and metals
  • emotional factors, such as laughing, crying, yelling, and distress
  • hormonal factors, such as in premenstrual syndrome
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 12/6/2013

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