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Asthma Triggers Demystified: Tips for Identification and Prevention | Max Hospital

Asthma Triggers: Strategies and Essential Tips for Better Breathing

By Dr. Shekhar Varshney in Pulmonology , Critical Care

May 17 , 2024 | 2 min read

Asthma, a chronic respiratory condition, is characterised by the inflammation and narrowing of the airways. It leads to symptoms like wheezing, shortness of breath, chest tightness, and coughing. While asthma can't be cured, its symptoms can be managed by identifying and avoiding triggers. Understanding asthma triggers is crucial for individuals with asthma to lead a healthy and active life. We delve into the various asthma triggers and provide practical tips on avoiding them, drawing insights from authentic sources like the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology (AAAAI), Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the American Lung Association. 

Common Asthma Triggers

  1. Allergens: Allergens such as pollen, mould spores, dust mites, pet dander, and cockroach droppings can trigger asthma attacks in susceptible individuals. 
  • Pollen levels are typically high during spring and fall, while indoor allergens like dust mites and pet dander persist year-round.
  1. Air Pollution: Outdoor air pollutants like particulate matter, ozone, nitrogen dioxide, and sulphur dioxide may exacerbate asthma symptoms.
  • Indoor pollutants such as tobacco smoke, wood smoke, cooking fumes, and volatile organic compounds from cleaning products or paints can also trigger asthma attacks.
  1. Respiratory Infections: Viral respiratory infections like flu, the common cold, and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) can worsen asthma symptoms.
  1. Exercise: Exercise-induced asthma, also called exercise-induced bronchoconstriction (EIB), occurs when physical activity triggers asthma symptoms.
  • Cold, dry air during exercise can exacerbate symptoms, particularly in individuals with asthma.
  1. Weather Changes: Weather changes, especially cold air, humidity, or sudden temperature drops, can trigger asthma symptoms in some individuals.
  1. Emotional Factors: Strong emotions like stress, anxiety, or laughter trigger asthma symptoms or exacerbate existing ones.

Strategies to Avoid Asthma Triggers

  1. Allergen Control: Use allergen-proof covers on pillows and mattresses to help reduce exposure to dust mites.
  • Wash bedding every week in hot water to kill dust mites.
  • Keep indoor humidity levels between 30% and 50% to minimise mould growth.
  • Vacuum upholstered furniture and carpets regularly using a vacuum cleaner with a HEPA filter.
  • Limit exposure to pets or consider allergen-reducing strategies like keeping pets out of the bedroom or using air purifiers.
  1. Air Quality Management: Check air quality forecasts and avoid outdoor activities during high pollution days.
  • Use air conditioning and keep windows closed during pollen season.
  • Avoid smoking and exposure to secondhand smoke. Encourage smoking cessation for household members who smoke.
  • Use exhaust fans while cooking and ensure proper ventilation to reduce indoor air pollutants.
  • Choose low-VOC or non-toxic cleaning products and paints.
  1. Respiratory Hygiene: Wash your hands regularly to prevent the spread of respiratory infections.
  • Get vaccinated annually against the flu and follow recommended vaccination schedules for other preventable respiratory infections.
  • Avoid being around individuals with respiratory infections, if possible.
  1. Exercise Precautions: Warm up before and cool down after to minimise the risk of EIB.
  • Using a scarf or mask to cover the nose and mouth when exercising in cold air is a good practice.
  • Use a bronchodilator inhaler as prescribed by a doctor before exercise to prevent EIB.
  1. Weather Awareness: Dress appropriately for weather conditions, especially during cold or humid weather.
  • Stay indoors during extreme weather conditions if possible.
  • Use air conditioning or a dehumidifier to control humidity levels inside.
  1. Stress Management: Practicing stress-reducing techniques such as deep breathing exercises, yoga, meditation, or mindfulness helps manage emotional triggers.

By understanding and avoiding asthma triggers, individuals can reduce the frequency and severity of asthma symptoms, which leads to better disease management and improved quality of life.