Top Allergy and Asthma Triggers
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Molds — parasitic, microscopic fungi lacking stems, roots or leaves — can make allergy-sufferers pretty miserable. As many as 250,000 mold spores can fit on one pin head, and they are found both indoors and outdoors. Levels peak in late summer and fall months.
Outdoor molds usually grow in moist shade areas (soil, decaying vegetation, leaves and rotten wood); indoor molds are usually found in dark, humid areas of the home (basements, cellars, attics and bathrooms). Mucor, Aspergillus and Penicillium are common indoor molds.
These microscopic, sightless, eight-legged arthropods are natural inhabitants of indoor environments. Dust-mite droppings are the most common trigger of allergy and asthma symptoms.
Dust mites are found throughout the household and thrive in high humidity and where human dander is located, such as mattresses, pillows, bed linens, upholstery and carpeting.
Cockroaches, mice and rats are more than just unsightly nuisances — droppings and urine left behind are major triggers of asthma symptoms — particularly in densely populated urban neighborhoods. They are attracted to offices and homes where food and water are easily accessible.
Food allergies occur when a person's immune system overreacts to an ordinarily harmless food. The most common food allergies (responsible for up to 90 percent of all allergic reactions) are proteins in cow's milk, eggs, peanuts, wheat, soy, fish, shellfish and tree nuts. The most common symptoms are hives, eczema, asthma and gastrointestinal symptoms.
Anaphylaxis, a systemic allergic reaction that can be fatal, is the most severe reaction and is marked by an initial feeling of warmth, flushing, tingling in the mouth and red, itchy rash. These symptoms are usually reversed with emergency measures, including antihistamines and injectable epinephrine administered under the care of a physician or allergist.
This milky fluid (produced by rubber trees) is processed and manufactured into a variety of products. Those suffering from latex reactions have allergies triggered by dipped latex products.
Products that commonly cause reactions include gloves, balloons and condoms; although some individuals may suffer from reactions to rubber bands, erasers, rubber parts of toys, certain medical devices, latex clothing and elastic, feeding nipples and pacifiers. (Most latex paints are not a problem, since they do not contain natural latex.)
Insect stings are responsible for inducing severe allergic reactions in at least 1 to 2 million people in the U.S. An estimated three percent of the population is susceptible to allergic reactions caused by insect stings, including those of yellow jackets, honeybees, paper wasps, hornets and fire ants.
For a small number of people, these stings can be life-threatening, resulting in anaphylaxis. Symptoms may include itching and hives, swelling of tongue or throat, breathing difficulty, dizziness and intestinal issues. In severe cases, a rapid fall in blood pressure may result in shock and loss of consciousness.
Pollutants and Lifestyle Exposures
Air pollutants such as tobacco smoke, wood smoke, diesel exhaust, ozone, perfumes, household cleaners, and airborne chemicals off-gassing from furniture and carpeting can trigger asthma and allergies. Also, strong odors or sprays (perfumes, household cleaners, cooking fumes, paints or varnishes).
Lifestyle factors, such as strenuous physical exercise, medications and anxiety and stress, also influence the onset and duration of allergic reactions.