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Is One of These Irritants Triggering Your Asthma?

Is One of These Irritants Triggering Your Asthma?

Asthma is a chronic respiratory condition characterized by airway inflammation. When your airways become inflamed, breathing gets difficult, and you may experience symptoms such as chest pain or heaviness, wheezing, coughing, difficulty breathing, or some combination of these.

Unfortunately, there’s no currently cure for asthma. Treatment is focused on reducing inflammation and managing flare-ups; identifying your asthma triggers is one of the most important steps. 

David Kamelhar, MDEric Teller, MD, and our team at Kamelhar-Teller Pulmonology specialize in diagnosing and treating asthma in Midtown East, New York, New York. In this blog post, we’re exploring some of the most common asthma irritants and what you can do to get your symptoms under control.

Airborne allergens

Airborne allergens are possibly the most common trigger for asthma sufferers. These allergens include pollen, mold, pet dander, and dust mites, many of which are found almost everywhere.

These irritants can trigger asthma in people without allergies, and they make asthma worse for people who do have allergies. If you have asthma, it's important to minimize your exposure to these allergens by using air filters, vacuuming regularly, washing bed linens frequently, and avoiding outdoor activities during high-pollen periods.

Tobacco smoke and other inhaled substances

Tobacco smoke is a major irritant for many people with asthma. Breathing smoke can trigger an asthma attack, and it can also make your asthma symptoms worse.

If you smoke cigarettes, quitting is the best way to reduce your risk of asthma symptoms. If you spend time around others who smoke, take steps to minimize your exposure. Consider opening windows to increase ventilation and try to avoid smoke-filled rooms.

Similarly, inhaling recreational substances such as marijuana through smoking, vaping or hookah can have the same or worse effects on the bronchial tubes.

Chemical irritants

Cleaning products, perfumes, air fresheners, pollution, and other chemical irritants can also trigger asthma symptoms. To reduce your exposure to these irritants and minimize your asthma symptoms, switch to fragrance-free products whenever possible. Avoid using harsh cleaning products, and ensure your home is properly ventilated when you clean or use chemicals.

Respiratory infections

Respiratory infections, such as a common cold or flu, can also trigger your asthma symptoms. It’s important to take steps to reduce your risk of respiratory infections, including getting the flu (influenza) vaccine each year and practicing good personal hygiene.

If you do get a respiratory infection, go to the doctor. We can help you manage your symptoms so you can avoid complications and start recovering faster.

Physical activity

Physical activity can be a trigger for some people with asthma. It’s also known as exercise-induced asthma, and symptoms flare when your heart rate rises and you start breathing more heavily. Breathing in cold, dry air can also make your symptoms worse.

If your airways become irritated during exercise, take time to warm up before your workout and try low-impact activities. Talk to our team about the benefits of using an inhaler before participating in more strenuous workouts in order to prevent asthma associated with exercise. In many individuals, regular aerobic exercise (“cardio”) may make the airways less likely to react to that exercise. Aerobic exercise is important for individuals with asthma.

Cold air exposure

Similar to intense exercise, cold air is an irritant to most people with asthma. While some individuals are more sensitive than others, it is a good idea to avoid extremely cold air inhalation, such as by covering one’s mouth with a scarf on a cold day. Similar to exercise, many individuals with asthma are protected by using a (rescue) inhaler before going out in the cold.


Stress is a trigger for some people with asthma. When you're feeling anxious or stressed, your body produces more adrenaline. This extra adrenaline accelerates breathing and narrows your airways, which can trigger asthma symptoms.

To reduce your risk of stress-induced asthma, learn to practice stress-management techniques, like deep breathing and meditation. Getting regular exercise can also help reduce stress levels naturally.It is very important to be careful to not blame difficult to diagnose asthma on “stress” before excluding other factors that may in fact be responsible for one’s breathing difficulty.

Identifying the irritants that trigger your asthma is an important part of managing the condition. Fortunately, you don’t have to figure it out alone. Dr. Kamelhar and Dr. Teller work closely with you to determine which irritants exacerbate your asthma, then they help you find effective ways to reduce your exposure and manage your symptoms in everyday life.

Take control of your asthma symptoms with help from our team at Kamelhar-Teller Pulmonology. Call our office at 212-685-6611 or send us a message online to get started.

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