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When it comes to asthma and asthma attack triggers, pollen, animal hair and exercise are usually what spring to mind. But a number of everyday occurrences, from wine to weather, can increase your chances of having an asthma attack.

A new study published in the Journal of Applied Meteorology and Climatology says that thunderstorms may trigger asthma outbreaks, as rainfall and high humidity and electrical activity rupture pollen particles. Strong winds also spread pollen during the storm, increasing the likelihood of an asthma attack.

"Thunderstorm asthma is a very complex phenomenon and involves interactions of allergens like grass pollens, thunderstorms and susceptible groups of people," said Andrew Grundstein, study lead author and Professor of Geography at the University of Georgia.

"Our study may help anticipate significant thunderstorms by employing a technique that helps identify wind magnitudes commonly associated with thunderstorm asthma outbreaks."

Asthma sufferers will likely know what does and doesn't trigger an attack, and keep their inhalers to hand for emergencies. Pollen and working out are easy enough to avoid, but what about these common triggers?

Acid reflux and GERD

As acid travels up the oesophagus, it triggers a reaction in the airways. The link between acid reflux and GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease) and asthma is uncertain, but WebMD states that people with asthma are twice as likely to have GERD, and treatment of GERD often helps to relieve asthma symptoms.

Laughter or crying

Anything that causes a change in your breathing pattern or restricts airflow, like laughter or crying, can trigger an asthma attack.


Pollutants on the road, particularly in rush hour, can trigger asthma attacks. According to Asthma UK, two-thirds of people with asthma find poor air quality makes their asthma worse, including air indoors filled with cigarette smoke and cleaning products. Busy main roads and motorways, airports, and barbeques are all rife with pollutants.

Food additives

Preservatives, colourings and flavourings can trigger asthma attacks in some people. Look out for sodium bisulfite, potassium bisulfite, sodium metabisulfite, potassium metabisulfite, and sodium sulfite, all of which are potential triggers. Sodium bisulfite, a bacterial and fungal growth inhibitor, is found in bottled lemon juice, and some wines.

Alcohol A survey from Asthma UK revealed 64% of asthma sufferers found alcohol worsened their symptoms. As well as the aforementioned preservatives, other ingredients in alcohol such as histamine, a natural food chemical found in red wine and some beers, and the same substance released in the body when you have an allergic reaction, can trigger asthma attacks.

Isa Jaward

Isa Jaward is a journalist from London who has written for the likes of Time Out, The Guardian and Music Week.