5 Lesser-Known Asthma Triggers

Tobacco, dust, pets, and mold are well-known triggers of asthma attacks, but pharmacists can educate their patients about some hidden triggers, too.

Tobacco, dust, pets, and mold are well-known triggers of asthma attacks, but pharmacists can educate their patients about some hidden triggers, too.

Patient education about asthma triggers is especially important, considering that more than 18.7 million adults have asthma, and the condition costs the United States $56 billion a year, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The situation is getting worse, as the proportion of people with asthma in the United States grew by almost 15% in the last decade, the CDC maintains.

Beyond correcting asthma controller medication underuse and setting goals for treatment, pharmacists can educate patients on the following lesser-known asthma triggers identified by Washington University School of Medicine pulmonologist Mario Castro, MD:

1. Sunscreen

Patients with asthma may want to stay away from sunscreen containing benzophenone, octocrylene, and para-aminobenzoic acid (PABA).

Another reason to stay away from PABA: the American Melanoma Foundation suggests using a broad-spectrum sunscreen that protects against both UVB and UVA radiation, and PABA only protects against UVB.

In addition, Consumer Reports reported that spray-on sunscreen could put children at risk for asthma or allergy attacks.

2. BPA

At least one study has shown an association between exposure to bisphenol A (BPA), which is often found in food container linings and water bottles, and asthma in children.

But because a causal relationship between BPA and asthma has not been established, many have called for more research on how BPA could affect immune response and asthma.

3. Citrus Fruit

Limonene, a compound in lime and other citrus fruit, could damage the lungs, according to Dr. Castro.

Other studies have found that enzymes often found in citrus fruit peels can induce immunological sensitization and asthma.

Meanwhile, one study found that kiwi has been shown to reduce wheezing, shortness of breath, runny nose, and cough.

4. Spices

Dr. Castro suggested that some patients may have an asthma attack triggered by spices such as coriander, poppy seeds, pepper, dill, paprika, cumin, and saffron.

While some patients may use herbal products like oregano to help treat their asthma, these herbal preparations may actually exacerbate their condition. A study conducted by the University of Texas at El Paso and the University of Texas-Austin Cooperative Pharmacy Program found that 42% of patients admitted to the hospital for asthma had used herbal preparations, and 28% had used preparations containing oregano.

In the last year, one individual with asthma said she suffered from eating a spicy version of Doritos. The 14-year-old patient said the spices on the chips made breathing difficult for her.

5. Wall paint

Oil-based paints can release chemicals even after they are dry, so patients with asthma should try to stick to latex-based paints, Dr. Castro advised.

She suggested looking for a green seal certification mark on the paint can label, which means the paint releases less gas and compounds.

The paint brand Valspar was the first to receive a nod from the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA) for being asthma and allergy friendly.