Man in hazmat suit holding a spray bottle and dumping out a bottle of bleach

Chemical Sensitivity and Asthma Complications

There are lots of things that have triggered my asthma over the years. Dust, mold, pollen and pets don't come close to a chemically induced flare. We interact with a plethora of chemicals daily. Some chemicals interact with our bodies without issue, while others are problematic. Common household chemicals, some obvious and others odorless, can be common triggers for asthmatics, like myself.

Welcome to an overview of chemicals you already know flare your asthma, chemicals you didn't know could flare your lungs up, and some ways which I protect my lungs from these caustic chemicals.

Being cautious about chemical sensitivity and asthma

Some harmful chemicals are more easily identifiable, giving off offensive fumes or scents that we try to avoid. These are "glycol ethers", commonly found in cleaning supplies like bleach, lysol, and chlorine. As asthmatics, we can avoid these more easily because they are easily identified by their strong scents.

Other chemicals do not interact with our senses and frequently go unnoticed, causing us to be exposed more often and in larger amounts. These are chemicals like parabens in cosmetics, or BPA and Phthalates which are in many plastics. As we interact with these odors- and taste-less chemicals they interact with our hormones and bodily functions.

These are just some of the chemicals that have been identified as irritants or influencers of asthma. I have been triggered by and sent to the hospital by glycol ethers, as many of us have. I believe, also, that exposure to other chemicals had been keeping my asthma flared more consistently throughout my childhood. Now, I am vigilant about chemical sensitivity and my exposure to chemicals that can induce flares in my asthma.

Possible solutions to avoiding a chemical attack

When working with fumes, I always wear a respirator and use good ventilation. I never take chances with this, even if outdoors, chemicals that have intense interaction with my airways need to stay out. If at all possible, I avoid the interaction with these fume-y chemicals altogether. I no longer keep bleach or lysol-like cleaners in my living space; only cleaners that are kind to my body, typically unscented. The brand "seventh generation" works well for me, although it took some trial and error to find it; there are other cleaners like it.

More discrete chemicals can be more difficult to avoid, but with some mindfulness, they can also be avoided. First, I always recommend reading about a body product before you buy it. Sometimes it can be cryptic to find if something has parabens in it, because brands know that it shouldn't be included. There are many products that will proudly advertise that they do not contain parabens. I recommend looking for these products first because they are usually made without other potentially harmful chemicals or scents, which can help you avoid a run-in with a chemical sensitivity.

Plastic-based chemicals like, Phthalates and BPA can be avoided by replacing plastics with glass or metal. It can take some time to identify all the plastics used in your life, but is well worth doing and making a gradual transition. I would recommend that the first thing to move away from is old plastic Tupperware, replacing it with mason jars or pyrex. By reducing plastic in your life, you are both helping the health of your self and your environment. Sadly, another common way people ingest these chemicals is through the consumption of seafood, due to the plastic pollution of our oceans.

How my asthma has changed

Today, my asthma is very well managed, but that took some time. Years of research and gradual change to remove myself from these chemicals, through the process, also changing my dietary habits. Before, I suffered from constant flares and consistent allergy exacerbations. Many things have changed that could've of had impact on my asthma, but I am certainly breathing better now that I have made these changes.

I hope this article helped you to better understand how chemicals can infiltrate our systems and how you can improve your security. As always, I'm wishing you all the best at finding better control over your asthma.

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This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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