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Sneaky Allergy Asthma Triggers Slideshow

Air Fresheners

You might think they’re clearing the air of unpleasant odors, but air fresheners -- whether you spray them or plug them into the wall -- can leave you sneezing and wheezing. Many of these products just mask odors rather than get rid of them, anyway. So skip the special scents at home and in your car.


Thinking of repainting your bedroom? The fumes from paints can trigger asthma and allergy attacks. So look for "green paint" logos that identify paints with low or zero volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and other chemicals. One option: Find paint and other products certified by the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA) at

Fresh Fruit

If grass pollen or ragweed in the air make you feel miserable, you may have something called "oral allergy syndrome"; Some fruits may bother you, too. When that happens, your body mistakes certain natural chemicals in fruits like apples, pears, bananas, and peaches for the pollens that cause your allergies. The result: an itchy mouth and scratchy throat. In some cases, the allergy can become more severe, so check with an allergist if you start tingling after having some fruit.

Pain Relievers

For most people with asthma, aspirin and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are fine to take when a headache or back pain strikes. But about 3% to 5% of people who have asthma have "aspirin-sensitive" asthma, which means that taking either aspirin or NSAIDs can trigger a severe asthmatic attack. One safe pain reliever for them is acetaminophen (Tylenol).


Cinnamon, garlic, cumin, cardamom, and other spices can liven up all kinds of dull dishes. But for some people, these can also provoke an allergic reaction. Spices are also commonly used in cosmetics, and since specific spices may not always appear on product labels, they can be hard to avoid. Cinnamon and garlic are two of the more common triggers of allergic reactions. But in general, the hotter the spice, the stronger the reaction.   


Many people are allergic to food additives, such as the nitrates found in processed meats and the sulfites found in wine. Sulfites can prompt asthma attacks in people sensitive to these chemicals. Nitrates tend to cause hives and itching. If you think you might have a food additive allergy, see a doctor who specializes in treating allergies. They can test you for allergies and help you find some relief.

Wood Smoke

The soft glow and woodsy smell from a fireplace -- could anything be more cozy? Unfortunately, fires also churn out plenty of irritating particles and gases that can set off your asthma or allergies. The American Lung Association strongly advises against using traditional fireplaces, and recommends switching to gas or propane. It may help to step back at bonfires and marshmallow toasting, too.

The Swimming Pool

Can you be allergic to chlorine? Some people are sensitive to chlorine or have a mild skin reaction to it, though it's not a true allergy. Spending a lot of time in chlorinated pools and hot tubs could possibly make you more likely to get asthma or related allergies. To avoid trouble, you may want to take a break from your pool when they boosts chlorine levels.


Many of the materials used to make your home look great -- including plaster, drywall, manufactured wood, vinyl floors, paints, and wallpaper -- can release volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Take steps to avoid triggers:

  • Hang plastic sheeting to shield the rest of your house’s air from the remodeled area.
  • Air out the remodeled space for several weeks afterward.

Wear protective clothing if it's a DIY project.

Christmas Trees

A real, live tree can make the holidays merry and bright -- unless it triggers your allergies. Live trees come from the great outdoors, where allergens like fertilizer, pollen, and mold build up on them. Wash your tree’s branches thoroughly with water and let it dry before bringing it inside. Then, don’t keep the tree in your home for more than a week. If all else fails, switch to an artificial tree. Just make sure it’s clean and dust-free when you take it out of storage.

Reviewed by Hansa D. Bhargava, MD on October 10, 2013

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