Having trouble taming asthma flare ups? It could be caused by a number of subtle and not so subtle triggers.

1. Bug Spray. Exposure to cockroaches, bees, and mosquitos can pose health risks. But surprisingly, using bug spray and other aids to get rid of those common pests can be a problem, too. That's because many repellents sold on stores contain chemicals and ingredients that can trigger asthma. Even citronella candles and other natural remedies can cause respiratory issues.

Take action: Use natural methods to discourage pesky insects from crawling on you. Cover up with long sleeves and pants when you head outside to avoid getting bit and don't plan activities during sunrise or sunset, when mosquitos are out in full force. Keep bugs from being drawn to your presence by foregoing perfumes and scented products and avoiding eating outdoors. If you must use bug repellent, opt for lotions instead of sprays and choose scent-free formulations.

2. Traffic. Traveling on busy roadways is more than a nuisance—it can cause asthma symptoms. The problem stems from the exhaust fumes and other pollutants released by cars and trucks, which can be especially irritating for people with very sensitive airways. A study released by the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research found that the impact of traffic on asthma isn't limited to driver and passengers but even extends to people who live near busy roadways. Residents of high-traffic areas were three times more likely to seek emergency care for asthma symptoms than those who live in less traveled areas, and they also had more daily and weekly asthma flare-ups.

Take action: Plan to travel during off-peak hours, keep your car and home windows closed, shower after spending time outside near exhaust fumes, and always have your fast-acting relief inhaler on hand.

3. Laughter. It's the best medicine. Yet if you're asthmatic, a good laugh can lead to an asthma attack. The reason is because when you laugh, your breathing pattern is altered and so is your airflow. The changes can be enough to spark asthma symptoms in people with over-reactive airways. The same thing can happen when you cry or exercise.

Take action: You don't have to avoid attending a comedy show or other activities that will prompt you to have a good laugh (or cry). Just pay attention to your breathing patterns and try not to alter them. At the first sign that your symptoms are flaring, use your fast-acting relief inhaler. Also talk to your doctor, since frequent laughter-induced asthma could be a sign that your condition isn't well controlled.

4. Thunderstorms. Some studies have found that emergency room visits for asthma rise after a thunderstorm. Although the reason for this increase isn't completely clear, a study in Thorax in 2008 believes that the connection may be traced to pollen grains, which are released by the rain and then carried on the wind.

Take action: Stay inside during and right after a storm. If you must head outside, carry your fast-acting relief inhaler. And if you'll be working in your yard after the storm has passed, take your allergy medication if necessary and wear a mask to keep from breathing in pollen. Shower and wash your clothes in hot water if you've been outside during or after a storm to remove any allergens.  

5. Baking flour. You wouldn't expect baking a cake to be an asthma trigger, right? For most people, this is correct, but not if you're a baker by trade. A study on British bakers revealed that constant exposure to flour and other powdery baking ingredients can impact the respiratory system, causing bakers to be 80 times more likely to suffer asthma than their counterparts.

Take action: For those who bake often, minimize flour dust in the air and cleanup work areas carefully. Even if you don't bake for a living, take extra precautions when you cook. That may mean wearing a face mask and having someone else clean up for you if large amounts of powdery ingredients are released in the air.




American Lung Association. "Spring Forward By Reducing Your Asthma and Allergy Triggers." 11 May 2011. Web. 22 Sept. 2012.

Grundstein, A. et al. "Letters: Thunderstorm associated asthma in Atlanta, Georgia." Thorax 63 (2008): 659-660. 26 Sept. 2012.

Health and Safety Executive. "Asthma Risk in British Bakeries." 5 Sept. 2009. Web. 22 Sept. 2012.

Meng, Ying-Ying et al. "Living Near Heavy Traffic Increases Asthma Severity." UCLA Center for Health Policy Research. Aug. 2006. Web. 26 Sept. 2012.

ScienceDaily.com "Laughter-induced Asthma: It's No Joke." 25 May 2005. Web. 28 Sept. 2012.