Allergic reactions or sensitivity of the airways to pollution, fumes, perfumes, smoke or other irritants that you breathe may trigger an asthma attack. Most children with asthma have at least one allergy. The allergens most often associated with asthma attacks are proteins that become airborne as part of larger particles. A variety of distinct allergy-trigger proteins are a part of pollens that cause hayfever, droppings or shell castings from tiny organisms called dust mites that live in bedding and upholstered furniture, molds, cockroach debris, and animal dander from pets.
Smoke from cigarettes, fireplace chimneys or other sources, gases, fumes, air pollution and some strong odors do not trigger a true allergy reaction, but they can also trigger asthma or can aggravate an existing asthma attack.
In some cases, you may be exposed to inhaled irritants after eating. Sulfites are preservatives that are occasionally added to foods. After you have swallowed sulfites, small amounts of sulfur dioxide gas can form in your stomach. Inhaling small amounts of this gas can trigger attacks. People who are sensitive to sulfites do not have a true allergy reaction, but symptoms from the irritant gas can be serious.
One key to preventing asthma attacks from allergies and airborne irritants is to know your personal triggers and to avoid them. You should take special measures to avoid being exposed to known triggers. That may mean keeping your home free of strongly scented products, keeping pets outdoors, not using fireplaces or allowing people to smoke in your home, cleaning rugs and window treatments that collect dust, and encasing mattresses in allergy-control covers that prevent allergens inside the mattress from reaching the bedroom air. It may also mean making lifestyle or job changes to reduce your exposure to certain irritants or allergens.