Six hidden triggers that could set off allergies and cause asthma attacks

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ST. LOUIS - The CDC reports one in 12 people have asthma. Of those, half have had an asthma attack in the last year that could have been prevented. But knowing the hidden triggers could save you a trip to the ER, or even end up saving your life.

You can blame weeds, trees and grass if you’re coughing and wheezing, but not all asthma attacks are set off by the usual suspects.

Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis pulmonologist Mario Castro, M.D., says, “Some of my patients can hardly leave their house just because they’re so fearful of encountering someone who is smoking a cigarette, or somebody that has perfume on.”

In fact, Dr. Castro says most of his patients’ asthma attacks are triggered by allergies they don’t even know they have.

Roxanne McWilliams, asthma sufferer, said, “When you get to that point where you can’t get in enough air you can’t do anything.”

Here are six hidden triggers that could set off allergies that trigger an asthma attack. Number one: sunscreen! Specifically avoid those with benzophenone, octocrylene and PABA, all of which can set off an allergy attack.

Also trash the plastic water bottles made out of BPA. A study in the journal of allergy and clinical immunology found that kids exposed to BPA after birth were more likely to develop asthma.

Another trigger is antibacterial soap. That’s because it contains triclosan which is a synthetic pesticide. The good news, washing with ordinary soap is just as effective.

Your attacks can even be set off by the foods you eat.
Limonene, a compound found in lime and other citrus foods can set off allergies that then can damage your lungs.

Spices can also be trouble. Most come from pungent plants and can cause itching and swelling. Avoid coriander, poppy seeds, pepper, dill, paprika, cumin and saffron.

Another trigger is wall paint. Oil-based paints are a particular problem because they can continue releasing chemicals even after they dry. If possible, use latex paint which emits less gas than oil-based kinds. To find paints which release less gas and compounds look for a green seal certification mark on the label.

REPORT #2251

BACKGROUND: According to the CDC more than 6.8 million US children and 18.7 million adults have been diagnosed with asthma. Asthma is a lifelong disease that causes shortness of breath, wheezing, chest tightness and coughing. Asthma can greatly limit a person's quality of life. The body responds to triggers in two ways, through a hyper reactive response and an inflammatory response. During the hyper reactive response the lungs narrow and contract, making it difficult for the patient to breathe normally. The inflammatory response then follows, causing the body to release white blood cells and produce thick mucus. Asthma triggers can include cigarette smoke, dust mites, mold, pets and pollution. According to the CDC, nearly 9 people die from asthma each day. (Source:,

TREATMENT: In addition to identifying and avoiding triggers, there are some medications that can help control the disease:
• Quick-Relief Medication: These are medications that can open the lung's airways and relieve any moderate to severe asthma attack. Quick-relief medications include inhalers, bronchodilators, corticosteroids (taken orally) and anticholinergic drugs. Typically, the inhaler or bronchodilator contains a short-acting drug called beta-adrenergic agonist and only treats the symptoms, not the actual disease.
• Long-term Control Medications: For patients that have fewer, less severe asthma attacks, doctors may prescribe a long-term control medication to help regulate the chronic symptoms of the disease like inflammation. These medications can include inhaled corticosteroids, leukotriene modifiers and combination inhalers that contain both a corticosteroid and long-acting beta agonists (LABAs). (Source:,
HIDDEN ASTHMA TRIGGERS: Asthma is a chronic disease of the lungs where the airways are affected by allergens and other environmental triggers. There can be an array of other environmental triggers that can set off an asthma attack. Some of these triggers grass, pollen and food even to wine. In order to minimize these triggers and save yourself from a trip to the ER start with your home. Keep your house as clean and dust free as possible, cover the bed with a spread during the day to minimize dust build-up, change out the water in humidifiers, dehumidifiers and vaporizers daily, keep the windows closed and use air condition, and keep bathrooms clean and ventilated and disinfect at least once a week.

? For More Information, Contact:
Judy Martin
Director, Media Relations