Asthma is a respiratory health condition that ranges from mild to serious for those who suffer from it. Those with asthma experience narrowing and swelling of their airways, which can make it difficult to breathe. This may lead to symptoms of shortness of breath, coughing, and/or wheezing. These symptoms may just be minor to some but could lead to a serious, life-threatening asthma attack for others. There is no cure for asthma but reducing triggers and environmental exposures can help reduce signs and symptoms. There are also medications that help reduce and control symptoms. It is important for those with asthma to work closely with their healthcare provider to track symptoms and assure you’re on the most appropriate therapies.
What is an asthma trigger?
Asthma triggers are anything that worsens your asthma symptoms. Common asthma triggers include the following:
· Cigarette smoke
· Viral or bacterial infections (such as a respiratory infection like pneumonia, cold or flu, sinus infections, or ear infections)
· Strong scents like perfumes or cleaning products
· Pollution in the air (ex. Wildfire smoke)
· Very cold or dry air
Certain other asthma triggers are called “allergic triggers”, and these include things like mold, animals, dust mites, and pollen. You might already know what your triggers are, but if you don’t, keep note of what asthma triggers might be specific to you. If you’re still not sure, talk with your healthcare provider, they may be able to help you identify your asthma triggers.
Avoiding Asthma Triggers
Once you understand what your personal asthma triggers are, the best thing to do is to try to avoid them. If cigarette smoke triggers asthma symptoms for you, avoid, or walk away, when people around you are smoking. If you currently smoke, talk with your healthcare provider to help you come up with a quit plan.
Since infections are a common trigger for asthma, do your best to avoid illness. Things you can do to prevent illness are washing your hands often with soap and water or hand sanitizer. The flu and pneumonia vaccinations are also beneficial for people with asthma to help prevent illness and asthma exacerbations.
If your asthma is triggered by strong smells, avoid using strong perfumes and strong-smelling cleaning liquids like bleach.
Technology has led to improved ways to determine the air quality outside. You can ask your smart speaker (exs. Alexa, google home), check your smartphone, or your smart watch to see how the air quality is. If you note that air quality is poor and pollution levels are high, avoid going outside on those days. When it is cold and dry outside, especially in the winter, cover your mouth and nose with a scarf to help warm up the air you’re breathing in.
For triggers like mold and dust mites, keep your home clean. Cover your pillows and mattresses with covers that keep dust mites away and avoid having carpet in the bedroom. Consistently clean any areas that tend to become moldy, like sinks and tiles. Remove anything from your home that may have become moldy, such as old books, bedding, plants, or old water-damaged carpets.
Unfortunately, if you have a beloved pet and your asthma is triggered by animal dander, saliva, or urine, the best way to avoid asthma triggers is to remove the pet from your home. Unlike the other asthma triggers, exercise is not a trigger that should be avoided because exercise is healthy for you. If your asthma is triggered by exercise, be sure to take a dose of your rescue, or quick-relief, inhaler (exs. Albuterol or levalbuterol) prior to exercise. Be sure to warm up slowly and avoid exercising in the cold or outside when there is air pollution.
If you are unable to avoid your asthma triggers, speak with your healthcare provider. Asthma can be difficult to manage, but knowing your asthma triggers can help you reduce the number of days you experience symptoms of your asthma.