5 Triggers That Could Be Wreaking Havoc On Your Asthma

by Jennifer Mitchell Wilson B.S. Dietetics, Dietitian, Health Professional

If you have asthma then you know how many different things can trigger an attack, and how those things vary from person to person. What is even more frustrating is not knowing what triggers your asthma. If you are still having problems with your asthma control, investigate these five triggers. One of them may be wreaking havoc on your asthma.

Dust mites

These tricky little critters live off of old skin cells that are shed in your bedding, pillows, couches, or other fabrics. Unfortunately, these little guys also cause big problems with allergies and asthma in many people. Washing your bedding in hot water weekly can help to limit their numbers. Dust mite covers, especially for mattresses and pillows, can be purchased at bed and bath stores, online, and at most super centers and provide a barrier between you and the dust mites. This further helps to eliminate the possibility of a reaction.

Acid reflux

Recent studies have indicated that more than 75 percent of people who have asthma also have acid reflux disease. In acid reflux disease, the stomach contents splash up into the esophagus, causing irritation and pain. These contents can also irritate the throat and airway, triggering an asthma attack. For people who have both acid reflux and asthma it can require individual control of each condition to find relief. Acid reflux can be treated with dietary changes, weight loss, PPI medications, and acid reducing medications.

Food additives

Many people know that food allergies can trigger asthma, but if you have not tested allergic to the main food or food ingredient allergens then you may think you're off the hook. Not so fast! There are food additives like sulfites that can also trigger a reaction. Check labels for things like sodium bisulfite, potassium bisulfite, sodium metabisulfite, potassium metabisulfite, and sodium sulfite. Other additives and colorings can be culprits too.

Hidden allergies

In addition to hidden additives, there are ways that pollen can be hidden in your food. Fresh fruits and vegetables can carry pollen or other asthma triggers on the fruit themselves. Be sure to wash your fruit and vegetables well. Honey, especially raw honey, can also contain pollen that may trigger an asthmatic reaction. During pollen season, pollen can stick to clothes so change out of clothes quickly and bag dirty clothes.

If you have any allergies to antibiotics, it is important to know whether your food has the potential to have antibiotics in it. Milk from cows often contains antibiotics, as do meats. Whenever possible, buy organic and try at the least buy organic for the "Dirty Dozen" foods most likely to be contaminated by pesticides.


A 2007 study in Clinical & Experimental Allergy showed that a significant number of participants believed that wine made their asthma symptoms worsen. It is thought that the sulfite preservatives (also mentioned above), histamines, or salicylates could be the root of this problem rather than the alcohol itself. If you have a glass of wine every night and suffer symptoms, it may be worth holding off, or trying a different alcoholic beverage for a couple of weeks to see if your symptoms improve.

Jennifer Mitchell Wilson
Meet Our Writer
Jennifer Mitchell Wilson

Jennifer Mitchell Wilson is a dietitian and mother of three girls. Two of her children have dealt with acid reflux disease, food allergies, migraines, and asthma. She has a Bachelor of Science in dietetics from Harding University and has done graduate work in public health and nutrition through Eastern Kentucky University. In addition to writing for HealthCentral, she does patient consults and serves on the Board of Directors for the Pediatric Adolescent Gastroesophageal Reflux Association.