The most common triggers for asthma are allergies. The allergic individual’s immune system over-reacts to common substances in the environment such as pollen, dust and dust-mite causing a hyper-responsiveness of the airways resulting in cough, tightness of the chest, wheezing and breathlessness. If the exposure is significantly reduced, symptoms and the need for medication are also reduced. Allergy skin or blood testing helps the patient and doctor to determine the specific offending substances and make recommendations to reduce exposure. Based upon test results, allergy injections or immunotherapy can be initiated and have been shown to reduce asthma symptoms.
A variety of substances can irritate the nose, throat or lungs. These include cigarette smoke, air pollution, gasoline fumes, dust, aerosol spray and strong odors. Do not smoke and do not allow smoking in your home. Avoid household products and chemicals that cause symptoms.
All warm-blooded pets, including birds and rodents produce dander, saliva, feces, and urine that can cause allergic reactions and asthma. If possible remove the animal from the home. If not feasible, keep the animal out of the bedroom and keep the bedroom door shut. Place filtering material over forced air outlets and a HEPA air-filter in the bedroom. Weekly washing of cats and bi-monthly washing of dogs may help reduce allergy and asthma symptoms.
Exercise is a common trigger for asthma. Symptoms usually begin after a few minutes of sustained effort. The asthmatic may cough, wheeze or have difficulty breathing. To prevent exercise-induced asthma, warm up for several minutes prior to strenuous exercise and pre-treat with medication. If asthma is well controlled, the asthmatic is able to exercise without limitations.
Respiratory infections (colds, flu, ans sinusitis) are likely to aggravate asthma. Your doctor will discuss changes in your usual therapy program to keep your asthma under control. Although viral infections should not be treated with antibiotics, cold symptoms may develop into a bacterial sinusitis, bronchitis or pneumonia and require antibiotic treatment. See your provider if your upper respiratory infection or asthma is worsening and or not responding to treatment.
Asthma is often intensified by a change in the weather. Interestingly, weather factors affect each asthmatic individually. There is no one type of climate that is good or bad for all asthmatics. Cold air or wind may cool and dry airways and trigger symptoms. Cover your nose and mouth with a scarf when exercising on cold and windy days.
While asthma is not a psychological disease; emotional stress, crying and laughter can lead to changes in breathing patterns which can trigger asthma symptoms. As with any other chronic health condition, proper rest, nutrition and exercise are important to overall well-being and can help in managing asthma.
Acid reflux from the stomach into the esophagus can cause not only heartburn and belching, but also an exacerbation of asthma symptoms. Treatment includes avoiding meals or snacks prior to bedtime, elevation of the head of the bed and medication.