Common Indoor Asthma Triggers and What to Do About Them


Medscape Reference 1: Drugs & Diseases > Pulmonology
Asthma in Older Adults
Author: Praveen Buddiga, MD, FAAAAI

Medscape Reference 2: Drugs & Diseases > Clinical Procedures
Use of Metered Dose Inhalers, Spacers, and Nebulizers
Author: Praveen Buddiga, MD, FAAAAI


Breathe in. Breathe out. Breathe in. Breathe out. Inhaling and exhaling may seem like a simple and even unconscious task for most people. However, there are 25 million cases of asthma in the United States, and those who suffer know that full, deep breaths are nothing to take for granted, especially when a simple trigger can cause a life-threatening asthma attack. While most attacks are short-term, lasting no more than a few hours, they can be fatal if not controlled in a timely manner. 

Before we break down those triggers, let’s answer the question “what is asthma?”

What is Asthma? 

Asthma is a chronic allergic lung condition that affects people of all ages and causes inflammation and narrowing of the pathways in the lungs making it difficult to breathe. During normal breathing, air flows freely in and out of the lungs, but when an asthma attack occurs, the airways swell, and the surrounding muscles tighten which causes breathing problems. Attacks are typically episodic where sufferers may experience acute flare-ups followed by symptom-free periods. 

Types of Asthma

While many believe asthma is simply brought on by exercise, that is not the case! There are several types of asthma which also means there are a myriad of triggers that can cause an asthma attack in those with this chronic condition. Some of these types of asthma are: 

  • Adult-Onset Asthma: This is a type of asthma that exposes itself in adulthood. Someone could be living with asthma for years and avoid triggers, but it is only when they come into contact with them that they begin to experience symptoms or an asthma attack. 
  • Exercise-Induced Bronchoconstriction: This type of asthma is brought on by intense physical activity and is caused by the loss of heat or water from the airways when breathing in air that is drier than what’s in the body. 
  • Occupational Asthma: People with occupational asthma are usually exposed to chemical fumes or irritants in the air while they are at work. If you have been diagnosed with a different kind of asthma, these pollutants could make it worse. Those at the most risk of this type of asthma are usually bakers, detergent or drug manufacturers, farmers, grain elevator workers, and lab, metal, or plastic workers. 
  • Asthma-COPD Overlap: Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a collection of lung diseases that cause breathing problems and obstruction of airways. While most people with asthma don’t develop COPD and those with COPD may not have asthma, it is possible to have both and this kind of asthma occurs when the two conditions overlap. This is called ACOS. When someone has ACOS it is possible to mistake asthma for COPD or vice versa. 
  • Non-Allergic Asthma: Perhaps your asthma symptoms flare up in extreme heat or cold. Maybe you experience symptoms when you get sick or are feeling stressed. While this condition is rare, it is possible that a person’s asthma not be tied to a specific allergen like pet dander or dust. This is non-allergic asthma, and it is crucial that you work with an allergist to detect patterns or possible causes in order to stay on top of your symptoms and their potential causes. 
  • Allergic Asthma: Not everyone who has allergies has asthma and vice versa, however allergens like dust and pollen can trigger asthma symptoms and attacks. This is known as allergic asthma. Routine testing with an allergist can help you determine what you are most sensitive to in order to keep both allergy and asthma symptoms under control. 
  • Pediatric Asthma: It is estimated that 7 million children in the United States have asthma, and if you suspect that your child has asthma it is crucial that you seek help immediately. If it isn’t detected or controlled, this can quickly lead to hospitalization. The good news is a specialist can conduct testing and determine whether your child suffers from asthma and the best ways to manage it.

Once you identify what kind of asthma you have, you can then properly treat it.

Common Asthma Treatments

The types and doses of asthma medications you may need depend on several factors: age, symptoms, severity of symptoms and asthma, and the medication’s side effects. Asthma can also change over time so it is critical that you work closely with your specialist to keep track of symptoms and adjust medications as necessary. 

Asthma treatment options: 

  • Long-Term Asthma Control Medications: These medications are taken regularly to control chronic symptoms and prevent asthma attacks. These include inhaled corticosteroids, leukotriene modifiers, long-acting beta agonists, and combination inhalers. 
  • Quick-Relief Medications: These are take-as-needed medications for short-term relief of asthma symptoms and can be used to prevent or treat an asthma attack. The more common medications are: albuterol and oral corticosteroids. 
  • Allergy-Induced Asthma Medications: Like long-term asthma control medications, these are also taken regularly to reduce your body’s sensitivity to a certain allergen. These can include allergy shots, sublingual immunotherapy tablets, and allergy medications. 

While asthma is a chronic and lifelong condition, it is possible to live a healthy life with the help of an allergist who can work with you 1:1 to determine the type of asthma you suffer from, and the best way to manage it based on your lifestyle. 

Common Indoor Triggers 

When it comes to common triggers for asthma, many think that it is exercise or outdoor pollutants that can cause attacks to come on suddenly, but there are also many indoor triggers that can cause flare-ups as well. Some of these include: 

  • Secondhand smoke
  • Dust mites in the carpet
  • Pets
  • Mold and spores
  • Exposure to COVID-19

If you know you are sensitive to some of these—in addition to medication prescribed by your specialist—here are a few things you can do to help relieve symptoms of these triggers: 

  • Use your kitchen exhaust: When cooking or doing other activities that cause moisture or odors, be sure your kitchen exhaust is on so these things are vented to the outdoors. 
  • Use a dehumidifier in the basement: Mold, fungi, and dust mites thrive in humid conditions and moisture that comes from a home’s foundation can contribute to humidity and cause flare-ups. 
  • Conduct an indoor air quality assessment: If you are aware that those in your home have asthma, it is a great idea to have an air quality assessment done to ensure your home does not contain common yet harmful triggers. Mold can easily be covered by deodorizers and you may not realize it is affecting someone in your home with asthma. 
  • Dust often and reduce clutter: Dust can build up quickly and if it is a trigger, it’s a great idea to stay up on keeping surfaces clean and clutter to minimum. 

Another helpful resource for you when learning about and living with asthma is hearing right from Dr. Buddiga. In an interview with MedWatch Today, Dr. Buddiga answered questions about asthma’s common triggers, signs and symptoms to look for in children, home remedies, and what his clinic’s goal is when working with patients who suffer from asthma. 

Dr. Buddiga’s approach has always been to first identify the trigger then move forward with a treatment plan, and offer ways to cope with asthma at home. One of Dr. Buddiga’s suggestions is nasal rinses. These can be the most helpful early in the morning or at the end of the day to rinse out any pollen, dust, or other irritants that can cause symptoms to flare and an asthma attack to occur. 

Asthma testing with Dr. Buddiga

Another route you can take is to schedule an appointment for asthma testing with Dr. Buddiga at his clinic. Dr. Buddiga makes it a priority to comprehensively assess you or your child in a comfortable environment. Testing may include breathing or blood tests which are necessary to determine which type of asthma you have. This allows Dr. Buddiga to administer the best possible treatment and management plan for you and your family. Relief is in sight if you or someone you know is having trouble controlling symptoms. Be sure to schedule your appointment today.

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