If bed bugs cause asthma, why do people have attacks after exercise?

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Hendrick asked the Naked Scientists:

I've heard on an earlier show that the excrement from "bed bugs" were one cause of asthma. Why though do people have asthma attacks after exercising, where there should be no bed bugs around?

What do you think?


Offline dentstudent

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Because there are other causes of asthma.

For example (from asthma UK):

    * you are more likely to develop asthma if you have a family history of asthma, eczema or allergies
    * it is likely that this family history combined with certain environmental factors influences whether or not someone develops asthma
    * many aspects of modern lifestyles such as changes in housing and diet and a more hygienic environment may have contributed to the rise in asthma over the last few decades
    * research has shown that smoking during pregnancy significantly increases the risk of a child developing asthma
    * children whose parents smoke are more likely to develop asthma
    * environmental pollution can make asthma symptoms worse and may play a part in causing some asthma
    * adult onset asthma may develop after a viral infection
    * irritants found in the workplace may lead to a person developing asthma (occupational asthma).

I'm sure that there are plenty more!


Offline Don_1

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I'm not sure that bed bugs actually cause asthma, they may do, but their presence can trigger an attack.
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Offline chris

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I am afraid that you have made a common mistake. Bed bugs do not cause asthma, house dust mites do.

Bed bugs are fairly large arthropods that hide inside your bed, clothing, mattress or the bed itself. They respond to various cues that tell them there's a potential meal available and bite the bed occupant to obtain a blood meal. The bites become itchy like a mosquito bite and can be very numerous.

In contrast, house dust mites are microscopic. They live in bedding and other soft furnishings and whilst they don't prey on us directly, they do feast on us. This is because they consume the thousands of dead skin cells that we shed every minute of the day.

The reason they are troublesome for asthmatics is thanks to their faeces, which are laced with proteins from the animals' bodies. It is to these proteins that the immune systems of asthmatics tend to respond, in the same way that a hayfever sufferer reacts to pollen.

The protein fragments are very small and so tend to penetrate deeply into the lungs when breathed in, which is what provokes the distal airway inflammation and wheeze.

The best way to minimise the impact of dust mites is therefore to wash bedding regularly and at a sufficiently high temperature to ensure that they are killed. This includes pillows and duvets. Changing a mattress every few years can also help to cut down the risk.

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Offline DrN

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So, does exercise trigger asthma by putting stress on the airway, which presumably is already inflamed due to the presence of allergens?