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Chemical Asthma Triggers & Irritants

Fumes & Strong Odors


Updated: February 21, 2008

When you have asthma, your airways already tend to be inflamed and irritated. This makes them extra sensitive to anything you inhale.

Some chemicals produce strong odors and/or fumes that can further irritate already inflamed airways, worsening your asthma. They are sometimes referred to as irritants.

Common Chemical Asthma Triggers

Some chemicals are things you routinely encounter in everyday life, such as:

  • Perfume
  • Cleaning solutions & air fresheners
  • Hairspray
  • Cooking fumes, especially when frying
  • Paint & varnish

Studies have shown that using cleaning solutions, even as infrequently as once a week, increases the risk for developing asthma. Exposure to the fumes from such solutions aggravates existing asthma symptoms, as well.

Chemical Triggers Encountered on the Job

Other chemical asthma triggers might only be encountered if you have a job that puts you in contact with them. In fact, there's even a special name for asthma that results from exposure to irritants while on the job &nash; occupational asthma. Chemical irritants are one of the chief culprits of this condition. They might include vapors, gases and fumes from chemicals such as:

  • Acrylates, used by auto workers
  • Persulphate salts, used by hair stylists
  • Ethylenediamine, used by photographic workers & shellac manufacturers
  • Formalin/formaldehyde, used by laboratory workers
These are just a few of the possible chemical triggers workers might encounter. For a complete list, visit the <Canadian Centre for Occupational Health & Safety website>.

Source: AAAAI, "Tips to remember: asthma triggers and management." American Academy of Allergy Asthma & Immunology. 01 January 2006. AAAAI. 29 Oct 2007 <http://www.aaaai.org/patients/publicedmat/tips/asthmatriggersandmgmt.stm>

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