Asthma is a chronic condition that inflames and narrows the airways in the lungs. When an asthma attack occurs, the inflammation and swelling of the airways worsen, and mucus production increases making it difficult to breathe. These symptoms can lead to wheezing, coughing, and shortness of breath.
Several triggers can make your asthma worse and increase your chances of having an asthma attack. Here are a few triggers that can cause an asthma attack:
1. Allergies can Trigger Asthma Symptoms
Allergies may be one trigger of asthma, in fact, “allergic asthma,” is the most common form of asthma. Exposure to airborne allergens like pollen, dust mites, pet dander, and mold can trigger an attack. Even food allergies can lead to an asthma attack.
If allergies are triggering an asthma attack, it is essential to identify the allergens you are allergic to, to help you avoid them if possible. Some allergies are unable to be avoided so medication and immunotherapy may be recommended to help lessen the irritation of the allergens.
2. Physical Exertion During Exercise can Trigger Asthma Symptoms
Exercise can also trigger asthma symptoms due to the increased breathing rate that brings drier air into your lungs. This causes your airways to narrow making it harder to breathe leading to decreased endurance, coughing, wheezing and other asthma symptoms.
This is called exercise-induced bronchoconstriction (EIB), or commonly exercise-induced asthma. According to the American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology, 90% of people with asthma have EIB, but not everyone with EIB has asthma. Many professional athletes compete with EIB; the goal of an asthma treatment plan is to let you enjoy your exercise and sports.
3. Extreme Weather Conditions can be an asthma trigger
Extreme weather conditions like below freezing temperatures or high heat can irritate your airways. Dry, cold air in the winter can trigger your airway to narrow. Take steps to prepare before you head outside, bundle up with a scarf around your mouth or nose to help warm up the air as you breathe.
4. Air Pollutants can Irritate your Airways
Exposure to air pollution such as second-hand tobacco smoke, smoke from fire, dust, and exhaust can increase your chance of an asthma attack. Small particles can get into your lungs and irritate your airways making your asthma worse.
During the summer months, ozone action days or days with higher pollution levels can lead to asthma attacks. Monitoring the weather, pollen, and pollution levels can help you prepare for the day.
5. Occupational Asthma
If your occupation exposes you to fragrances, dust, or heavy chemical fumes it could be increasing your chance of an asthma attack. Hair stylists, manufacturing jobs, and even bakers may inhale harmful fumes, gases, or dust that may trigger asthma symptoms while at work.
Keeping track of when you experience asthma symptoms can help identify a pattern in what triggers your symptoms.
6. The Common Cold and The Flu and Asthma
The common cold and the flu are respiratory conditions that can lead to coughing, wheezing, and congestion. These symptoms, in turn, can lead to an asthma flare-up. The flu can cause inflammation and narrowing of the airways, which can trigger asthma symptoms. This is one reason the CDC recommends all asthma patients get the flu vaccine and take precautions to avoid getting the flu.
Asthma is one of the leading causes of missed school and work, but it doesn’t have to be. Asthma and allergy specialists can help identify your asthma triggers. Board-certified allergists will also develop a treatment and action plan to get your asthma under control. If you or a family member has uncontrolled asthma, schedule an appointment with our board-certified asthma specialist today and breathe easier.