Asthma is a chronic disorder of the airways that causes a variety of reactions including tightness in the chest, difficulty breathing, wheezing or a cough. Asthma is characterised by hyperactive airways that are very sensitive to all manners of change, including the presence and absence of allergens. While there are some allergic triggers such as house dust mites, pollen, and food, there are also non-allergic triggers that can induce an asthmatic reaction.

If you or someone you know has asthma, it is important to understand and be watchful for these triggers.

Non-allergic triggers include the following:

  • Exercise
    • You may know this as “Exercise-induced asthma”. This non-allergic trigger is one that sparks symptoms in nearly all asthmatic patients when they exert themselves.
  • Changes in temperature

    • Extreme temperature changes, such as moving from a warm house to the cold outdoors, causes the bronchial tubes to go into spasm due to the cold draught.

  • Emotion

    • Stress is a common trigger that can aggravate an asthmatic patient.

  • Infections

    • Infections have the ability to trigger asthma in two ways:

      1. The inflammatory response to the infecting bug heightens the underlying inflammation on the asthmatic airways
      2. The immune system may become allergic to viral protein

  • Indigestion

    • Indigestion triggers asthma through Gastro-oesophagael reflux. This occurs when the acidic components of the stomach rush back into the gullet, causing irritation on the bronchial tubes.

  • Hormones

    • Women often report their asthma is more difficult to control in the premenstrual phase, possibly because the levels of oestrogen are at their lowest during this time (also, some women report that their asthma improves during pregnancy).

Asthma can cause sleep disruption, impaired concentration, fatigue and a general reduction in quality of life if inadequately treated or unrecognised. Contact an allergy specialist if you believe you may have allergic triggers affecting your asthma.