Asthma: Avoiding Triggers and Preventing Flare-Ups

Diego Ponieman, M.D., M.P.H.

Diego Ponieman, M.D. M.P.H.

May marks National Asthma and Allergy Awareness Month. In light of that, we want to take a closer look at asthma – what is it, and how you can manage it.

Asthma is a chronic disease that impacts the lungs by inflaming and narrowing your airways. This causes episodes in which patients experience shortness of breath, coughing, tightness in the chest and wheezing. There isn’t a known cause of asthma, but the disease affects people of all ages, and symptoms usually appear at a young age.

Asthma is treated with medication – usually a prescription inhaler – but there are also things that patients with asthma can do to reduce the risk of a flare-up without medication.

Let’s go over some of the most common triggers for asthma flare-ups or attacks:

  • Inhaling smoke usually causes most people to cough, but for people with asthma, inhaling any kind of smoke can cause their asthma to flare up. Avoid second-hand smoke as well as smoke from a burning fire. Beyond its general harmful effects, smoking is especially dangerous for asthma sufferers.
  • Avoiding dust and dust mites entirely is a difficult task, but there are things you can do to reduce your exposure. Clean regularly to avoid dust build-up, and use mattress and pillow covers to protect yourself from dust mites. Also, be sure to wash your bedding regularly.
  • Air pollution and pollen can both be easy asthma triggers. They can be hard to avoid, but you can stay up to date on pollution and pollen levels by visiting airnow.gov for a daily air quality index report. When these levels are high, try to avoid being outside for too long, and be sure to have your medication on hand.
  • Animal fur can trigger an asthma attack. If you have a pet, be sure to take precautions in order to protect yourself. Wash your pet weekly, keep your home clean by sweeping and mopping, and try to avoid keeping your pet in your bedroom.
  • Inhaling mold can cause asthma flare-ups, and possibly an attack. Moist and humid spaces are favorable for mold growth, so be on the lookout.
  • Physical activity can, unfortunately, trigger an asthma flare-up. This is difficult to avoid because in order to stay healthy we need to exercise regularly. Be sure to always have your medication on hand if your asthma is prone to acting up while you are active, and be sure to visit your doctor to discuss the best ways to exercise based on your asthma symptoms.

Asthma affects more than 25 million patients in the United States. There are many factors that can trigger asthma symptoms, and though there isn’t a cure, once you find out what you are sensitive to, you can manage and control your asthma so you can lead a normal life. Consult your doctor about your triggers, symptoms, and medications. Create a plan with your doctor, and be sure to check in with them about your asthma status and treatment regimen.

 

Sources:

https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health-topics/asthma

https://www.cdc.gov/asthma/triggers.html