Dr.Kamini Silvarajan MD/AAAM

Editorial Board: Dr.Kamini Silvarajan MD/AAAM

Outdoor Asthma Irritants

Knowing Indoor asthma triggers are alone not enough especially for an asthmatic patient but otherwise also understanding the outdoor irritants altogether will be very helpful in controlling and managing asthma.

Outdoor or outside asthma triggers are substances normally found outside that can set off asthma symptoms in sensitive people. Typically common outdoor triggers include tree, grass, weed pollen, mold spores, and certain extreme climate conditions.

Outdoor Pollens

Pollen is an airborne allergen that may set off numerous asthma symptoms in sensitive people at certain times of the year. Pollen consists of tiny, egg-shaped male cells found in flowering plants. You may know pollen better as the tiny, powdery granules that plants use during the fertilization process.

Outdoor Mold

Mold can be both an indoor and an outdoor asthma trigger, depending on where you find it. Outdoor molds are found in piles of dead leaves, soil, vegetation and rotting wood.

Climate Conditions

Extreme weather conditions and changing climate conditions may also be an asthma trigger in certain people. For example, hot, humid weather alone sometimes sets off asthma symptoms in certain people. If you also live in areas where forest fires are common during the summer months or where a phenomenon known as an inversion happens during the winter months, then poor air quality may make things even worse.

Extreme cold can also be an asthma trigger, particular breathing in cold air. Also, changing weather conditions, such as changes in temperature and humidity, barometric pressure (atmospheric pressure as indicated by a barometer- is the force per unit area exerted against a surface by the weight of air above that surface in the Earth’s atmosphere) or strong winds may trigger asthma symptoms in some people.

When an asthmatic goes outside for fresh air,sometimes that air may contain pollutants or irritants that may affect the person's asthma and if it’s a child their lung development. Inflamed airways are usually very sensitive to environmental irritants that aggravate further asthma.

One can monitor the air quality of the neighborhood they live and where especially your child attends school via radio or television broadcasts, the Internet, or other services on a daily basis. The air quality can vary by season or by other environmental events – such as smoke from forest fires.

While much of this area on environmental factors and asthma is still under investigation, research is now available to help you and your child breathe better outdoors.

Air Quality Index (AQI), looks at five major air pollutants regulated by the Clean Air Act: particle pollution, ground-level ozone, carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide, and nitrogen dioxide. Two key air pollutants that affect asthma are particle pollution that found in haze, smoke, dust and ozone [ (O3), or trioxygen, is a triatomic molecule, consisting of three oxygen atoms – found in smog]

Outdoor Pollution

When your child has asthma, you may have noticed that his or her symptoms may get worse when the air is polluted. Air pollution can make it harder to breathe ,causing symptoms such as coughing, wheezing, and chest discomfort.

To protect your child’s health from air pollution, you can first observe if his or her asthma symptoms occur more frequently when he/she is physically active outside ,specifically when the air is polluted. This may indicate that he or she is sensitive to air pollution.

By any way, if asthma symptoms indication is after the child has been outside in the polluted air, this may indicate that his exposure to this air has increased his sensitivity to other triggers indoors, such as dust mites or mold.

Anticipating when the outside pollution might cause your child problems, read the following:-

  1. Ozone is often worst on hot summer days, particularly in the afternoons and early evenings.Limit your child’s physical activities to early in the morning or later part in the evening hours on smoggy days.
  2. Particle pollution can be bad any time of year, even in the fall and winter,especially when the weather is calm and the air pollution builds up.
  3. Particle levels have been found to be high within a third of a mile near major highways and near busy roads during peak hours.
  4. Particle levels can be high around factories, and from wood-burning stoves, fireplaces, or burning vegetation.
  5. Changing weather conditions, such as changes in temperature and humidity, barometric pressure, or strong winds, can trigger asthma. Cold weather ,when the air becomes dry and chilly could cause respiratory problems.

Recent Research

– also has been uncovering new asthma triggers. One of those triggers is related to red tide toxins blooms of ocean algae (a simple non flowering plant of a large group that includes the seaweeds and many single-celled forms. Algae contain chlorophyll but lack true stems, roots, leaves, and vascular tissue) that are concentrated along shorelines and produce highly potent aerosolized toxins.

The red tides, which occur worldwide, increase respiratory symptoms in patients with asthma. In studies along the Gulf Coast, the red tide toxins were found to affect asthma patients in just one hour at the beach when exposed to the toxins. Researchers recommend that those with asthma choose another beach when red tides appear because they tend to be localized along the coastal waters.

Sometimes, the origin of various asthma triggers may begin far away. The Geological Survey has been monitoring the transport of dust through trade-winds , noting that it may be responsible for a number of environmental problems, including the increased occurrence of asthma in humans. 

The dust comes from the expanding desert region and carries a wide variety of bacteria and fungi. Altogether controlling and managing the asthma towards the knowledge is the betterment to stay healthy for an asthma patient.