For asthma sufferers, being caught off guard by an asthma attack can be very scary when the airways become narrowed or inflamed, leading to wheezing, coughing, shortness of breath or other symptoms.
Every case of asthma is different, and knowing what triggers your asthma can help you control it, but you may need to do a bit of detective work to help understand all of the factors that trigger your asthma.
Asthma can be tricky, because symptoms may not always appear directly after exposure and different factors (e.g., pollen, mold, exercise, smoke) can cause different reactions.
Dr. Skantha Manjunath, pulmonologist at Houston Methodist Baytown Hospital, shared the following steps you can take to better understand and manage your asthma for easier breathing.
Keep an asthma journal. “When you have an asthma episode, take notice of your surroundings and write down potential triggers, such as being close to a pet, stirring up dust while cleaning or exercising outside,” Manjunath said.
Avoid asthma triggers. Identifying your asthma triggers can help you avoid them. For example, if you know your asthma is triggered by air pollution, watch the weather for air quality updates and stay indoors when air pollution levels are high.
Use your inhaler properly. “Ask your doctor or nurse to watch your technique to make sure you are receiving the full benefits of your medication,” Manjunath said. “Also be careful to adhere to the recommended dosage.”
Recognize warning signs. An asthma episode may come at any time and could develop into a life-threatening situation within a matter of seconds. Ask your doctor what the right steps should be in such an emergency.
Make an asthma action plan. Create your personalized Asthma Action Plan with tools available from the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology.
If you or a loved one has asthma, talk to a doctor about ways to manage it safely so you can enjoy an active lifestyle.
Common asthma triggers
Allergens, such as pollen, animal dander, dust mites and mold, can aggravate airways that may already be inflamed due to asthma.
Weather conditions, such as dry air, high winds, cold temperatures or sudden changes in weather patterns, can sometimes trigger an asthma episode.
Pollution, such as strong fumes from paint or other chemicals, smoke, smog and even perfume, may trigger asthma symptoms.
Tobacco smoke irritates the airways and can trigger asthma symptoms.
Exercise can trigger an asthma episode for some people, with symptoms usually starting after a few minutes of physical activity.
Anxiety or stress can increase asthma symptoms.
Laughing or crying can change the pattern of breathing and trigger an attack.
Medications, such as aspirin and ibuprofen, may cause or worsen asthma symptoms for some people.
Viral and bacterial infections, such as the common cold and sinusitis, can aggravate symptoms.
Acid reflux (with or without heartburn) can cause coughing and other asthma symptoms.
Houston Methodist Baytown offers comprehensive asthma services to evaluate and manage the condition using the most advanced treatment options. For more information, visit houstonmethodist.org/baytown or call 281-428-4510 to schedule an appointment.