SummaryRead the full fact sheet
- If you think you may have an allergy, see your doctor for allergy testing.
- You could also keep a symptom diary to record the times and situations when your asthma is worse and to help identify triggers.
- Identifying and reducing exposure to avoidable asthma triggers may improve your asthma control.
- Make sure you have an up-to-date asthma action plan, and continue to use your asthma medication as directed.
People with have sensitive airways that can react to different in their environment. For some, ongoing exposure to triggers can cause continued inflammation (swelling and redness) and excess mucus production in the airways, making their asthma worse.
Asthma and allergic conditions
Atopy is the genetic tendency to develop allergic conditions. Many people with asthma are atopic, which means they have an increased risk of developing other allergic conditions.
Although allergies may run in families, individuals may have different allergic responses.
Some allergic reactions may include:
- – sneezing, blocked and runny nose, itchy eyes and throat
- – dry, red, itchy skin
- – skin rashes
- – a severe form of an allergic reaction that is potentially life-threatening.
Identifying asthma triggers
Everyone's asthma is different, and everyone has different triggers. For most people with asthma, triggers are only a problem when their asthma is not well managed.
Identifying and reducing exposure to your allergen triggers may make your asthma symptoms easier to manage.
If you think you may have an allergy, keep a symptom diary to help identify triggers. Record the times and situations when your asthma is worse and then see your doctor for advice.
Types of asthma triggers
- Avoidable triggers – including , , irritants (such as perfumes, chemicals, cold/dry air, smoke and paint) certain medicines and dietary triggers.
- Unavoidable triggers – such as , , laughter, respiratory tract infections, certain medicines, certain medical conditions, extreme emotions, hormonal changes, and .
Asthma induced by exercise can usually be treated effectively with the right medicine and the right plan.
Allergens that trigger asthma
If you are allergic to something – eating, inhaling, injecting or touching it can bring on an allergic reaction.
For someone who is sensitive to an allergen, asthma symptoms may occur when they breathe a substance into their lungs. This can make the airway lining swell and the muscles around the airway tighten. Eventually the airway may narrow and cause breathing difficulties.
Common allergic triggers for asthma include:
Allergy testing for asthma
Skin prick tests
Skin prick tests can be done by your GP or an allergy specialist. Small amounts of different allergen solutions, (such as pollen extract), are applied to the forearm or the back with a dropper, and the skin gently pricked with a sterile lancet. If you have a reaction to the allergen the skin swells or develops a welt.
Serum specific IgE allergy tests
Serum specific IgE allergy tests are blood tests that detect specific IgE antibodies. These antibodies are made by your body’s immune system against allergens (such as dust mites, pollens, animal dander, moulds and foods).
These skin and blood tests are not conclusive in determining asthma triggers. Just because your skin and blood react to an allergen, doesn't mean your lungs will too. Think of these tests as a helpful ingredient for your doctor to use to assess your overall health and asthma and allergy needs.
Allergy tests can however help define the substances you are allergic to and enable a precision approach to managing that trigger.
Tests such as these should only ever be performed under the guidance of a doctor or allergy specialist.
Allergens in the workplace
There are many substances in the workplace that may cause asthma to develop, or trigger asthma symptoms in someone who already has asthma.
Occupational asthma can occur in many types of workplaces, but is most commonly reported where people are working with flour or grains and isocyanates (chemicals which are found in paints as hardening agents).
Other substances may include wood dust, strong cleaning products, chemicals, or animal allergens.