With allergic asthma, certain types of allergens are known to produce, or trigger, asthma symptoms and attacks. Triggers cause symptoms in allergic asthma often associated with a substance made by the body called IgE. If you have allergic asthma, you body makes more IgE when you breathe an allergen. This can cause a series of chemical reactions known as the allergic-inflammatory process in allergic asthma, resulting in the constriction (tightening) and inflammation (swelling) of the airways in your lungs.
Common Triggers of Allergic Asthma
The following allergens are well-known triggers of coughing, wheezing, tightening of the chest, and other symptoms of allergic asthma. For tips on reducing your exposure to allergens, see “Living with Allergic Asthma.”
Pollen. Pollen from trees, grasses and weeds is a common allergen. These airborne particles often peak during different seasons of the year, but they can linger in your home and air ducts all year long.
Cockroaches. Cockroach feces and saliva are both allergens and can trigger asthma symptoms in some people with allergic asthma. Because cockroaches are often prevalent in many inner-city areas, their allergens play a significant role in contributing to the number of people with asthma.
Dust mites. Dust mites are spider-like creatures too small to see with the naked eye. Every home has dust mites. They feed on skin flakes and are found in mattresses, pillows, carpets, upholstered furniture, bedcovers, clothes, stuffed toys, fabric, etc. Both the body parts and feces of dust mites can trigger asthma in individuals with an allergic reaction to dust mites.
Mold. Molds can grow on virtually anything when moisture is present. Outdoors, many molds live in soil, or on leaves, wood, and other plant debris. Indoors, they can grow on wood, paper, carpet, and food. Molds produce tiny spores, which are like seeds, to reproduce. These spores become airborne easily. Any time moisture accumulates indoors (through a damp basement, leaky faucet, shower stall, etc.), mold growth will often occur, particularly if the excess moisture goes unnoticed or unaddressed. Asthma episodes can be triggered in individuals with an allergic reaction to mold.
Pet dander. Asthma can be triggered by pet urine, feces, saliva, hair, or dander (skin flakes). But you don't have to have pets in your house or visit places where animals are kept in order to be exposed to their allergens. Interestingly enough, animal allergens are often detected in places where no animals are housed. The allergens may have been carried unwittingly into a place by people that own or have been around animals.
Foods. Nearly half of all people with food allergies also have asthma, which is often due to the allergic asthma connection. For these people, contact with common foods such as peanuts, soy, shelfish, milk and other food protiens can trigger an asthma attack. Food-induced asthma attacks can be the most severe and deadly, so it's important to talk to you doctor if you suspect you have a food allergy.
Natural Oils & Fragrances. Perfumes, fragrances, cleaning products and other types of household agents can be composed of hundreds of different allergenic ingredients. Citrus, animal fats and oils, plant extracts and more, making these types of solutions a real problem for people with allergies, or allergic asthma.
SOURCE: This information should not substitute for seeking responsible, professional medical care. First created 2004; most recently updated 2010.
© Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA) Editorial Board