Nearly 8% of all adults in the U.S. currently have asthma, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Of those approximately 20 million people, many are unaware of how to avoid asthma triggers. While most asthma sufferers can feel when they’re having an asthma attack– characterized by wheezing, coughing, and shortness of breath–the CDC reports that many of them are unaware of how to avoid what’s causing the attack.
Common triggers include things like tobacco smoke, mold, outdoor air pollution, and colds and flu. But even when minimizing contact with those common irritants, asthma sufferers may find that their symptoms persist at odd times and in unexpected places.
Awareness is crucial in preventing asthma attacks, so let’s look at some unexpected triggers to keep an eye on. For any questions on your asthma diagnosis and general health, be sure to consult your doctor.
5 Unexpected Asthma Triggers
1. Acid Reflux and GERD
Research has revealed that GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease) is more common in people with asthma than in the general population. This could be for a couple of reasons:
- Acid reflux damages the esophagus, causing heartburn and general pain in the chest area. This can potentially lead to or exacerbate asthma attacks.
- Conversely, asthma attacks can lead to GERD because the motion and force of severe coughing and wheezing may cause stomach acid to enter the esophagus.
In either case, if you have asthma, be aware of GERD and heartburn. Treating acid reflux can lead to increased general well-being and help lessen the severity of asthma attacks.
2. Food Additives
Common food additives and preservatives may irritate your immune system and airways. Sulfites are a preservative often added to things like wine, dried fruit, baked goods, and other processed foods. If you notice a certain type of food irritates your asthma, look at the ingredients list to see if anything raises a red flag. There are typically alternatives you can eat that don’t include additives.
3. Food Allergies
Beyond the additives mentioned above, whole foods can irritate asthma if you have an unknown allergy or intolerance. Food allergies don’t always present as a closed airway or hives. Sometimes symptoms can be as simple as an upset stomach or fatigue. To see if any common foods are causing allergy symptoms, you can talk to your doctor about trying an elimination diet.
4. Air Fresheners and Scented Candles
It’s tempting to mask household odors with air fresheners or scented candles. But be aware that these often introduce harmful VOCs (volatile organic compounds) to your home. Added fragrances or the smoke from candles can cause allergy symptoms that lead to asthma attacks. Try to increase the ventilation to your living space for better odor control and to prevent contaminated air.
In the medical field, there’s a well-known correlation between asthma attacks and aspirin or other pain relievers known as NSAIDs (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs). But if you’re unaware of your asthma or the severity of the symptoms, you may want to be mindful of how often you’re taking common pain relievers. Talk to your doctor if you have any questions.