What Triggers Asthma? What Causes an Asthma Attack?

Photo of Asthma InhalerIf you have asthma, then you undoubtedly know how horrible it feels to have shortness of breathe and wheezing in your chest.

But, do you know what triggers asthma or what causes an asthma attack?

In this post, we’ll shed some light on what the most common triggers and causes are for asthma. If you can narrow down what substances you’re most sensitive to and control your exposure, you’ll reduce the frequency of asthma symptoms and attacks.

How is Asthma Caused?

If you landed on this page, you may also be wondering how is asthma caused in the first place. What makes us have asthma?

Unfortunately, no one really knows what is asthma caused by, however, what we do know is that it’s a chronic inflammatory disease of the airways. When the airway experiences a trigger it becomes inflamed, narrow and filled with mucus. Asthma attacks occur when the muscles around the airways spasm and constrict the flow of air (source WebMD).

A few things that doctors have discovered is that allergies play a major role in why you may have asthma and the person next to you doesn’t. Another contributing factor is family history and genetics that have been passed down to you.

Most Common Asthma Triggers

There are many things that produce asthma symptoms, some are common sense elements such as allergens, while others are not so well known, including exercise and medications.

Take a look at the common asthma triggers below to narrow down what may be the cause of your symptoms and/or attacks. Many people suffer from this condition, but with proper management they can live healthy and productive lives by avoiding their triggers.

Allergies

Asthma induced by allergies is the most common problem. 80% of people with allergy related asthma have a sensitivity to airborne particles derived from dust, dust mites, pollen, mold, pet dander, trees, and grass.

The best thing you can do to alleviate your problem while indoors is to use an air purifier. This simple device extracts asthma inducing particles from the air and traps them in a filter. The device pushes out clean, fresh air for your lungs to breathe. Take a look at this article on choosing the best air purifier for asthma relief.

Food and Additives

Most people are diagnosed with a particular food allergy when they are young and have found ways to keep it under control. However, there may be one or more substances that you’re not aware of that your actually allergic to and is causing your asthma to flare up.

Here are the most common foods and additives for what triggers asthma:

  • Eggs
  • Cow’s milk
  • Peanuts
  • Tree nute
  • Soy
  • Wheat
  • Fish
  • Shrimp and other shellfish
  • Salads
  • Fresh fruits
  • Sodium Sulfite, Bisulfite and Metabisulfite
  • Potassium Bisulfite and Metabisulfite

Exercise

We often hear that daily exercise produces only positive health benefits, but you’d be surprised at how much strenuous exercise is the culprit for what causes an asthma attack.

For many people, exercise is the major trigger.

Usually symptoms occur within 5-15 minutes of an aerobic workout, however there are some extreme cases where exercise-induce asthma can reappear up to 6-10 hours later. For more information on this issue visit WebMD.

Heartburn

Recent studies have discovered that heartburn and asthma go hand in hand. In fact, up to 80% of people with asthma also suffer from heartburn conditions.

A major clue for if this is the trigger for your asthma is if you didn’t experience asthma as a child, but now do as an adult, and have no family history of the disease or other known related allergies.

If you suspect this may be your link to asthma, see your doctor for confirmation and possible solutions to controlling it.

Medications

Some people suffer from asthma and have no idea that it’s actually in response to medications.

The most common trigger comes from a sensitivity to anti-inflammatory drugs (i.e., asprin, ibuprofen, advil, motrin) and beta-blockers used to treat high blood pressure and heart disease.

To confirm that this is may be what causes asthma attacks for you, consult your doctor so he or she can make a final determination.


For more information on asthma and recent statistics see ACAAI.org.