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Diseases & Conditions : Environmental Medicine

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Asthma Triggers

According to the latest information available from the American Lung Association, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, almost 25 million people in the United States have been diagnosed with asthma, and 7 million of them children under the age of 18. Both in the U.S. and in other developed countries, there has been a significant increase in asthma both as an illness and a cause of death. Yet outdoor air quality has improved and there have been declines in mortality due to other pulmonary diseases, such as tuberculosis and pneumonia.

Why is asthma on the rise?

Some scientists theorize that the decline in serious illness may be one factor in the increase of allergic asthma. They believe it is possible that an underutilized immune system may overreact to lesser irritants, inappropriately triggering the release of histamine and other inflammatory substances in the lungs.

Other researchers believe that the increased amount of time children are spending indoors is increasing their exposure to carpeting and other allergen-triggers.

What are environmental triggers that can cause an asthma attack?

Allergens that can trigger asthma include:

  • Pollen

  • Mold

  • Animal protein

  • House/dust mites

  • Cockroaches

Irritants that can trigger asthma include:

  • Strong odors and sprays, such as perfumes, household cleaners, cooking fumes, paints, and varnishes

  • Chemicals, such as coal, chalk dust, or talcum powder

  • Air pollutants

  • Chemical exposure on the job, such as occupational vapors, dust, gases, or fumes

  • Tobacco smoke and secondhand smoke

  • Wood smoke