Asthma is a chronic respiratory disease that affects more than 27 million people in the United States (about 8% of the population). It causes inflammation in your airways, leading them to narrow and make breathing strained, which is what we call an asthma attack. Without proper intervention, asthma attacks can be fatal.
The bad news is that there is currently no cure for asthma, but the most common way to treat it is with an inhaler, also known as an asthma pump. Inhalers work by delivering medication directly into your airways, allowing them to expand so you can breathe normally.
The good news is that attacks are not random and typically arise because of some kind of biological or environmental trigger. This means that you can lead a normal life free from asthma attacks by simply avoiding asthma triggers and taking your inhaler with you wherever you go.
Let’s discuss the seven most common asthma triggers you should be aware of.
1. Tobacco Smoke
Tobacco smoke is the most common asthma trigger, affecting about 25% of people with asthma. It contains over 7,000 chemicals, many of which can irritate the airways and trigger asthma attacks. Even secondhand smoke can trigger asthma attacks.
You can avoid tobacco smoke by not smoking and avoiding being around people who are smoking.
2. Air Pollution
Air pollution can also trigger asthma attacks. It contains a variety of pollutants, such as ozone, particulate matter, and nitrogen dioxide. These pollutants can irritate the airways and make it difficult to breathe. Air pollution triggers asthma attacks in about 15% of people with asthma.
The best way to avoid air pollution is to stay indoors on days when the air quality is poor. You can also check the air quality forecast before heading out for the day and avoid activities that expose you to high levels of air pollution, such as exercising outdoors on days when the air quality is poor.
Allergens are substances that can cause an allergic reaction in some people. Common allergens include pollen, dust mites, mold, and pet dander. When an allergic person is exposed to an allergen, their immune system overreacts and produces antibodies. These antibodies can trigger asthma attacks.
You can get an allergy test from your doctor to figure out which allergens you’re susceptible to and avoid them.
4. Respiratory Infections
Upper respiratory infections, such as the common cold and the flu, can trigger asthma attacks. This is because these infections can cause inflammation of the airways. The best way to avoid upper respiratory infections is to get vaccinated against the flu and other respiratory infections. You can also wash your hands frequently and avoid close contact with people who are sick.
Exercise can trigger asthma attacks in some people. This is known as exercise-induced asthma (EIA). EIA is caused by the narrowing of the airways during exercise. EIA is more likely to occur in cold, dry air, or after a period of inactivity. It is also more likely to occur in people who have severe asthma.
Stress can also act as an asthma trigger. When a person is stressed, their breathing can become rapid and shallow. This can irritate the airways and trigger an asthma attack. While it’s not possible to completely avoid stressful situations, you can take measures to help you cope with stress. Mindfulness and relaxation techniques (including breathing exercises) are an excellent start.
7. Strong Odors and Irritants
Strong odors, like those from cleaning products, perfumes, and air fresheners, can irritate the airways and trigger asthma symptoms. Choose unscented or natural cleaning products, and ask friends and family to be mindful of their use of perfumes and scented products around you.
Breathe Better with the Pulmonary & Sleep Center of the Valley
By recognizing and avoiding the asthma triggers mentioned above, you can reduce the frequency and severity of asthma symptoms and improve your quality of life. However, it’s crucial to work closely with a pulmonary expert to develop an asthma action plan tailored to your specific needs, as asthma can vary greatly from person to person.
Contact us today for a consultation for a more comprehensive assessment of your asthma and personalized treatment options.