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Lesson 2: Asthma Triggers

What are common indoor triggers?

Dust mites: The unwelcome houseguests

Unless you live in a hygienic bubble, you have dust all over your home. Dust is made of tiny particles of plant and animal material floating around your home. Although dust is just another chore for humans to deal with, dust mites call this mixture their home. Dust mite droppings are the most common triggers of year-round allergy and asthma symptoms.

Dust mites prefer areas where there is high humidity and where there is human dander (dead skin flakes). If you have a dust mite allergy, you can have congestion, a runny nose with sneezing (especially in the morning), itchy, watery eyes, coughing and wheezing.

Animal dander or why can't I breathe when I pet the cat?

So, do you know people who say they are allergic to cat hair? They may very well have an allergic reaction when they are around cats, however they aren't allergic to the actual hair of the cat. Contrary to popular notion, people are not allergic to an animal's hair, but rather, to a protein found in the saliva, dander (dead skin flakes) or the urine of furred animals. These miniscule, airborne, allergy-provoking proteins can land on the lining of your eyes or nose, or you can inhale them directly into your lungs. Your symptoms can include sneezing, an itchy, runny nose, and itchy, swollen eyes and throat. Your skin can be itchy and you can develop a raised red rash (hives) if you actually touch the animal.

Typically, your symptoms will occur quickly after being exposed to the animal, sometimes within minutes. For some people, symptoms can come on more gradually and become most severe eight to 12 hours after exposure. All breeds of cats and dogs are capable of triggering symptoms–there are no "hypoallergenic" breeds of cats or dogs, contrary to popular belief. So take that hairless cat back to the pet store! If you have severe allergies, you can even have a reaction in the absence of an animal if a pet owner has dander on her clothing.

Cockroaches: One more reason to loathe them

Even though most people do whatever they can to eliminate these insects, cockroaches have been around for more than 300 million years! The majority live in warm, tropical climates, but some species settle down in homes and offices of humans. As if their presence were not unwelcome enough, protein in their droppings is a primary trigger of asthma symptoms. This grim fact is especially problematic for children living in densely populated, urban neighborhoods.

Indoor mold: Not just for bread anymore

That creeping growth on your bathroom ceiling isn't just an eyesore. Molds send out small spores that can trigger allergy symptoms that can lead to an asthma attack. Indoor molds and mildew grow in areas of your home with higher humidity, such as a damp basement, refrigerator, bathroom windows, and the ceiling above your shower.

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