How industrial fumes and raw onion cause asthma?

Industrial fumes and raw onion can trigger asthma.

Real-life Example:
Twenty-five years old Ashok Kumar is a cheerful young man who never had a chronic illness in his life. Bathing in rains, riding scooter without woollen clothing in winter nights of December, or having scoops of ice-cream or raw onions never caused any problems to him.
Ashok now works in a kiln factory and is exposed to intense fumes at sustained levels. On one day he suffers from cold, still he goes to factor site for work. At the end of the day, he experiences a strange sense of chest tightness, which he ignores. Ashok goes to bed early that day after having a light dinner. However, his sleep gets disturbed around mid-night and he wakes up due to distress; he feels strangulated. He sweats profusely and fights for gasping air. His brother takes him immediately to a nearby family doctor who diagnoses him of bronchial asthma. Since then he has numerous dont’s in his life to follow as precautions, that his free-life pleasures have now become a matter of his memories. For past three years Ashok intermittent had symptoms of asthma; six months back he had severe asthma episode that lasted two months. His medication intake has also doubled but his symptoms are still not in control.

i) What aggravates Ashok’s asthma?
ii) How is the problem solved?

Ashok discovers one day that some days when he avoids eating raw onion, he improves symptoms of his asthma considerably. He also then requires less medications.


  • Occupational asthma initiates typically after exposure to occupational health hazards, e.g., industrial fumes. Fumes make lung airways more reactive. Once triggered, asthma tendency may persist for a long time.
  • Raw onion is a strong irritant that can aggravate asthma.
  • Ashok’s asthma is triggered by his exposure to fumes. His asthma symptoms get aggravated further when he takes raw onion. Ashok’s asthma improves when he avoids fumes and raw onion.
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4 Responses to How industrial fumes and raw onion cause asthma?

  1. Ajay says:

    Hello – I have read in multiple places that onion is excellent for relieving asthma because it contains anti-inflammatory and anti-asthmatic effect, inhibit the release of histamines, and reduce bronchial obstruction. Onions contain prostaglandins that relax the bronchial passageways. Onions are also high in quercetin, a type of flavonoid that has anti-inflammatory and anti-allergic properties and in vitamin C. And onions contain L-cysteine, an amino acid that factors into the production of glutathione, a naturally occurring antioxidant in the body that is necessary for maintaining immunity. Glutathione production is often compromised in asthmatics.

    If someone is allergic to onion, or asthma gets aggrevated by raw onion, do you have a recommendation on how they should consume it? mix it in food? slightly cook it? have onion juice?

  2. Blue says:

    I’m no expert, but I’m an asthmatic who experiences attacks triggered by raw onion. For me, eating onions is not a problem. It’s inhaling the strong scent while slicing them, or while cooking them. As long as I make sure my house is well ventilated throughout the preparation process, I’m usually okay. One of my favorite recipes is a pot roast in a slow cooker, so I usually open up all my windows, prep the meal, toss it all in the cooker, and then leave the house for several hours. By the time I return, the onions are cooked down and no longer giving off that irritating aroma.

  3. Dear Ajay,
    Your information is correct but raw onion is a trigger factor in few asthmatic patients when they are symptomatic. In majority of asthmatic patients onion can be taken in any form when their asthma is stable.

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