It is important to note that it is possible to have allergies and not have asthma, and have asthma and not have allergies, according to the American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology (ACAAI). But some people suffer from allergic asthma, also known as allergic asthma.
What are the most common allergic asthma triggers?
Dr. Monteleone says the best way to identify your allergic asthma (or triggers) is to get tested by a board-certified allergist. Many allergens can trigger your asthma symptoms, but here are the most common:
Do you find yourself reaching for your inhaler every time you’re around a furry or feathered friend? According to the American Lung Association, you may be allergic to animal dander, which is microscopic skin particles, saliva proteins, and urine or feces from pets, usually cats, dogs, rodents or birds. Because these substances are so small, they can hang around in the air for long periods of time and easily stick to fabrics in clothing and furniture.
Note: The AAFA stresses that there are no “hypoallergenic” cats or dogs, which generally have short hair. This is because any animal with fur is more prone to carrying other allergens (like dust), so fur alone is not the only possible trigger. If you suffer from allergic asthma triggered by these pets, it is important to take this into account before having one or being around one.
According to the AAFA, pollen is a fine, powdery substance that comes from plants. It is one of the most common seasonal allergy triggers. Pollen tends to blow out in the spring, summer, and fall, ending up virtually everywhere outdoors (including the air you breathe). This can cause major allergic asthma symptoms in susceptible people, says Dr. Monteleone. The most common types of pollen that trigger allergic asthma come from grasses and weeds like ragweed, mugwort, lamb’s quarters, and tumbleweed, as well as certain trees like birch, cedar, and Oak.
Mold – fungi that produce invisible spores that are released into the air – can hide indoors or outdoors. Mold tends to grow in warm, humid environments, according to the American Academy of Allergy Asthma & Immunology (AAAAI). This can make the summer and fall seasons particularly difficult for people whose asthma symptoms are triggered by mold. Mold can also be a problem inside your home, especially in areas that tend to be damp, such as basements or bathrooms.
You can’t see the dust mites, but they can trigger your allergic asthma symptoms. In fact, they may be the most common trigger for allergies and asthma that occur year-round, according to the AAFA. These tiny spider-like creatures (*chills*) live in places like mattresses, bedding, upholstery, rugs and curtains, according to the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences. They survive by eating animal dander or skin flakes that humans naturally shed. Dust mites and their excrement can trigger allergic asthma in some people.
Cockroaches can hide in many homes and buildings – they like warm places that provide food and water, like kitchens and bathrooms. Whether you see them physically or not (because they are notoriously sneaky and more active at night), cockroaches can trigger allergic asthma symptoms. Their body parts, saliva and poop contain a protein1 it’s a common year-round allergen for many people, according to the AAFA.
Non-allergic asthma triggers to note
Even though the above triggers are the most common source of allergic asthma symptoms, the condition can also worsen due to factors that cause non-allergic asthma.2, such as viral respiratory infections, exercise, irritants in the air (such as strong disinfectants, heavy scents such as perfume, tobacco smoke, or air pollution), stress, medications, certain food additives and even the weather, according to the ACAAI.
How are the treatments for allergic asthma adapted according to the triggers?
If you suspect you have allergic asthma, it’s important to see a board-certified allergist to get a proper diagnosis first, Priya Patel, MD, allergist and immunologist at Penn Medicine, told SELF. “The allergist may perform tests, which may consist of skin tests or blood tests, to help identify allergens that may be triggering asthma,” she explains. “They can then provide advice on how to avoid those allergens.”