Asthma patients may have triggers that cause their symptoms to worsen. Dust mites, poor air quality, cigarette smoke, mold spores, pet dander, and strong odors are some of the most common causes.
Asthma is a disorder in which the airways of a person become swollen. As a result, the airways constrict, making breathing harder. Shortness of breath, chest tightness, wheezing, and coughing are all symptoms of asthma, and they tend to get worse at night or early in the morning.
The sudden intensification of asthma symptoms is known as an asthma attack. Breathing difficulties, wheezing, and a rattling sound in the chest are all possible symptoms. The length might range from a few minutes to several hours or days.
Asthma attacks often occur when a person has exposure to triggers.
Though not everyone reacts to all stimuli in the same way, there are some common triggers that can cause asthma to flare up and worsen.
This article looks at some of the most prevalent asthma triggers. It also considers what a person should do if their asthma flares up.
Asthma sufferers may develop asthma episodes as a result of poor air quality.
Poor air quality can be caused by a variety of causes, including:
- cigarette smoke
- ozone, smog, and other sources of air pollution
- charcoal grills
- wood fires
- strong vapors, odors, or fumes, such as paint, gasoline, scented soap, or perfume
How to avoid poor air quality
It may not be possible to avoid all sources of air pollution that can trigger asthma attacks. However, individuals can take some steps to limit their exposure.
Some tips to help avoid pollution include:
- closing windows if neighbors are burning wood, leaves, or other debris
- avoiding being near people who are smoking
- avoiding strongly scented soaps, body washes, or shampoos
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that people pay attention to local air pollution forecasts and plan activities outside when air pollution levels are low.
Dust mites are tiny microorganisms that may be found in almost every home.
The feces and body parts of deceased dust mites might cause allergic reactions in certain people. Individuals with asthma may get an asthma attack as a result of the allergic response.
How to avoid and prevent dust mites
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), people can help reduce asthma attacks caused by dust mites by:
- avoiding down-filled comforters, quilts, and pillows
- washing bedding every week and drying it completely
- placing allergen-proof pillow and mattress covers on bedding
- aiming for relative humidity levels that range between 30–50%
- cleaning and vacuuming area rugs, floors, and carpets regularly using a high-efficiency particulate absorbing (HEPA) filter
Asthmatics should not smoke tobacco and should avoid being in the company of smokers whenever possible.
Asthma attacks can also be triggered by secondhand smoking.
How can I stay away from cigarette smoke?
The regulations governing tobacco use in public places differ by state, although many have designated smoke-free zones, such as in front of stores and in bars and restaurants.
If you have asthma, you should avoid going to places where smoking is permitted.
Parents of asthmatic children who smoke should think about stopping or restricting where and how often they smoke.
Even if you aren’t sensitive to mold, it might trigger an asthma attack.
Mold grows in moist or damp environments, which might include locations like:
- basements or garages
- anywhere moisture can become trapped
How to prevent and avoid mold
A person can help reduce their exposure to mold by:
- fixing leaky plumbing or other causes of leaking water
- scrubbing mold off surfaces
- opening a window or using a vent when showering
- making sure to dry wet or damp items within 24–48 hours
- replacing any absorbent material with mold growing on it
- cleaning the refrigerator and air conditioner’s drip pans regularly
- maintaining a low indoor humidity level with a dehumidifier or air conditioner
- checking humidity levels with a hygrometer throughout the day and making any necessary adjustments
Pets with fur or feathers can cause an asthma attack if a person is allergic to them.
Pet dander refers to tiny pieces of skin that fall off dogs, cats, rodents, and other animals. Even if a person does not have a pet, exposure to dander can be caused by mice and cockroaches in the home.
Short-haired and bald dogs and cats can still induce allergic reactions or provoke asthma attacks. According to the American Lung Association, no dog or cat is allergen-free.
How to avoid and prevent pet dander
To prevent pet dander, the CDC suggests adopting the following steps:
- using mattress and pillow covers that prevent allergens
- ensuring that pets are kept out of the bedroom
- using a HEPA filtration air purifier
- washing pets with fur frequently
Pollen can trigger hay fever, which can exacerbate asthma symptoms. Pollen exposure is linked to an increase in hospital admissions due to growing asthma symptoms, according to a 2017 study.
Pollen can come in a variety of forms, including:
- tree pollen
- weed pollen
- grass pollen
Thunderstorms can also aggravate asthma symptoms by breaking up pollen particles as the rain hits them. The pollen is then dispersed by the wind, making it easy to inhale.
How to avoid pollen
Pollen exposure can be reduced by doing the following:
- ensuring they have their reliever inhaler on them at all times
- taking a preventer inhaler in line with instructions from a healthcare professional
- taking antihistamine medications
Individuals can also utilize a pollen calendar to figure out which pollens cause their hay fever or asthma symptoms.
Cleaning and disinfectant products
Asthma can be triggered by disinfectants and cleaning chemicals. This is due to the presence of chemicals, strong odors, and volatile organic molecules in them (VOCs).
VOC-containing cleaning supplies and other home goods include:
- aerosol spray products
- chlorine bleach
- air fresheners
- dishwashing liquid
- oven cleaners
- furniture polish
- floor polish
- cleaners for rugs and upholstery
Precautions to take when cleaning
A person can help avoid triggering an asthma attack by:
- avoiding overuse of the products and following a schedule for cleaning to avoid overuse
- using safer products, such as soap and water
- avoiding using bleach or mixing disinfectants
- avoiding products containing fragrances
- ensuring there is plenty of airflow while cleaning
- using the products safely and correctly
Other common triggers of asthma include:
- Weather: Dry wind and cold air can trigger an asthma attack.
- Emotional stress: Strong emotions can cause a person to hyperventilate, leading to an asthma attack. People can speak with a medical professional about medications and methods to help reduce their stress levels.
- Health conditions: Certain conditions can lead to asthma attacks, including:
- Infections: Infections that affect the lungs and airways can trigger an asthma attack. To help reduce the chance of contracting infections, a person should ensure they wash their hands frequently and thoroughly. Infections may include:
- Exercise: Exercising might lead a person to take in a lot of air. Exercise-induced bronchoconstriction, a kind of asthma, may also be caused by physical activity. A person will not need to limit their physical activity if they receive effective therapy.
- Medications: Aspirin can cause an asthma attack. Beta-blockers can also make asthma management more challenging. Before using these drugs, people should consult with a medical practitioner.
What to do in the event of an asthma attack
During an asthma attack, a person should strive to stay cool and take the medication provided by their doctor to assist them manage their symptoms.
A quick-relief drug, commonly in the form of an inhaler, will usually be prescribed by a healthcare expert to open up the airways rapidly. Short-acting, rapid-onset beta2-agonists and anticholinergic bronchodilators are examples of these drugs.
Inhaled or systemic corticosteroids may be required if a person’s inhaler is inadequate in reducing lung inflammation.
If a person’s symptoms continue or their fast-acting drug becomes less effective, they should consult a doctor.
During an asthma attack, asthma is a chronic disorder that causes difficulties breathing. Allergens, pollutants, and dust are just a few of the recognized, typical triggers for asthma.
Limiting one’s exposure to recognized triggers is the greatest tactic one can employ. If an asthma attack happens, a person should take the fast-acting medicine provided by their doctor and notify them if their condition worsens.