How to Deal with Asthma Triggers

Allergies

Allergens are one of the major causes of asthma. Cockroaches, dust mites, pet dander, molds, pollen and rodents are some of the most prominent allergens that can bring about an asthma episode. The most basic form of protection is to avoid them entirely.

In order to keep your house free of cockroaches you should observe good hygiene practices, e.g. keeping your kitchen and bathroom clean and spotless. Do not leave any leftovers or spills untreated and make sure there is no standing water in your home. Even the smallest crumbs of bread may attract these insects.

Moisture is another attraction for cockroaches, so it’s wise to employ a dehumidifier in humid climes. Furthermore, a drier home will also prevent the growth of molds and dust mites.

You’ll also want to regularly clean your mattresses and pillows to rid them of dust mites. The same goes for upholstery, curtains and piles of clothes. An asthmatic child should only be allowed stuffed animals if they are washable. If you find out that you’re allergic to your pet you should avoid bringing them indoors, or as a bare minimum, keep them out of your bedroom.

If you’re allergic to pollen and experience aggravated asthma because of it, you could install HEPA air filters in your house. You should also wear a HEPA filter mask when going outside during pollination season.

Falling Ill

Ordinary illnesses, such as flu and cold, can be a major nuisance for asthma patients. According to experts, the source of the problem is the asthmatic’s own immune system, as opposed to the cold or flu virus itself. The immune system reacts more aggressively to these bodily invaders in asthmatics, which can lead to an asthma episode, besides worsening the symptoms of the illnesses themselves.

The best way to prevent an illness induced asthma attack is to avoid getting ill in the first place. You should be regular in getting your flu shots, frequently clean your hands and stay clear of ill individuals.

If you do get sick in spite of these precautions, carefully monitor your symptoms and check your peak flow rate periodically. Discuss your condition with your doctor who will decide the best course of action to take while you’re ill.

Drinking plenty of fluids, resting at home and keeping yourself decongested will always be helpful when sick.

Pollution

There are two kinds of air pollution: outdoors and indoors. There is little that can be done about getting rid of asthma triggers present in outdoor air i.e. ozone and other airborne particles found in dust, smoke and haze. The best approach is to wear a HEPA approved filter mask whenever you step outdoors. If you have to do it on a regular basis, e.g. to get to work and back, try planning your route, so that it doesn’t expose you to harmful irritants for long, since this could trigger an asthma attack.

Indoor pollutants can include:

  • Chemical fumes
  • Smoke from wood
  • Charcoal
  • Tobacco
  • Pesticides
  • Cosmetics

Fortunately, these can be managed more easily:

  • Not using substances that could produce smoke in your house
  • Ensuring optimal ventilation
  • Avoiding proximity to substances that exude a strong smell
  • Installing HEPA filters to purify the air
  • Setting up carbon monoxide and radon alarms

These are some steps you can take to keep yourself safe from an asthma attack while indoors.

Smoke

Cigarette smoke (both direct and second-hand) is a major trigger for asthmatics. Tobacco smoke contains over 4000 chemicals, including the especially harmful chemical carbon monoxide, which impedes the circulation of oxygen around your body.

When an asthmatic smokes (or breathes in someone else’s smoke) it goes straight inside their lungs, where its constituent chemicals start inflaming and irritating the airways. This in turn results in greater risk of an asthma attack and an increased need for medications to keep the condition in check.

The greatest risk of an asthma episode brought on by second hand smoke is in tight, packed spaces, such as cars, living rooms and bedrooms. These places lack the ventilation necessary to allow the smoke to dissipate, which exposes you to the harmful ingredients for an extended period of time, thereby leading to considerable aggravation of the asthma.

The best way of cutting down the risk of a smoke induced attack is to give up on smoking (if you do it yourself). This is not easy and you may want to seek a help group or professional rehabilitator to assist you. As for second hand smoke, you should ask your family members (and guests) who smoke to do so outside the house. You should also avoid closed places where there is a likelihood of smoke being present, e.g. bars and clubs.

Note that other devices used for imbibing tobacco, such as shisha or hookah, carry the exact same risks as the conventional cigarette. E-cigarettes are considered far less harmful than cigarettes, however, asthmatics should avoid them since their effects on their health have not been studied yet.

Exercise

Exercise is yet another major asthma trigger and one that can be tricky to identify, since it causes you to normally breathe shallow, feel flushed and have a faster heartbeat. All of these are mild symptoms that can be associated with an asthma attack brought about by other triggers.

However, you can be certain it is an asthma attack if you:

  • Experience wheezing or coughing
  • Have to gasp for air
  • Feel that your chest is constricted
  • Can’t speak in full sentences due to shortness of breath

In such a situation you’ll have to contact your medical practitioner at once and seek emergency assistance.

To avoid an exercise induced asthma episode, take a dose from your inhaler (as prescribed by your doctor) before you begin. Warming up 10-15 minutes prior to exercise and warming down 10-15 minutes after exercising can also help. You may also take a partner with you and inform them of your condition so they can assist you in an emergency.

Exercise in cold weather should be avoided if possible, since cold itself is a trigger that can irritate your airways. If you must, make sure you’re dressed appropriately, with your chest, throat and nose covered.

Other

Besides the common triggers mentioned above there are several others, such as emotions, anxiety and stress, alcohol, food and weather. It is vital that you make note of any asthma-related reactions you experience due to any of these in a symptom journal and discuss them with your doctor to minimize the chances of a future attack.