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Types of Asthma Triggers

Triggers are things that irritate your lungs and make your asthma worse. Allergens and irritants are two different types of triggers. Allergens cause allergic reactions while irritants make your asthma symptoms worse by irritating your airways (breathing tubes). Some of the common work-related asthma triggers are listed below.

Common triggers at home or work

  • Animals
  • Chemicals including cleaning products, paints, and solvents
  • Dust; second-hand smoke; gases, fumes, odours or smoke, and perfume
  • Very cold; hot, humid, polluted, or smoggy outdoor or indoor air
  • Exercise and strong emotions including stress

Common allergens at work or home

Allergens cause allergic reactions. The allergens below could also occur at home:

Animals (occupation example:  laboratory settings)

  • Dust mites (occupation example: domestic cleaners)
  • Fungal spores (occupation example: working in classroom settings)

Common Triggers that are Not Allergens

  • Irritants – triggers that do not cause an allergic reaction but make your asthma worse by irritating your airways. examples include dusts, smoke, fumes and sprays (e.g. industrial sources, second-hand smoke, and cleaning products in buildings)
  • Weather  (e.g. temperature or humidity extremes, smog)
  • Exercise and emotion
  • Viral or other respiratory infections related to work that can make your asthma worse (e.g. health-care workers or teachers)

Mixed Exposures

Mixed exposures of common allergens and irritants. For example, cleaners exposed to dust mites, animals, fungal spores and also cleaning products.

Specific Work Allergens

Specific work allergens and sensitizers are usually considered causes of occupational asthma. In some cases, people who already have asthma may become allergic or sensitized to things at work that they would not usually come across outside the workplace. For example, a baker who has had asthma since childhood becomes allergic to the flour at work. Some specialists and compensation boards would consider this as occupational asthma, while others would consider this as work-exacerbated asthma.

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