Asthma is a chronic condition that differs from patient to patient. It also has different triggers, and its intensity can also vary, depending on the severity of the condition. However, one thing that happens in all asthma patients when they encounter a potential trigger is that their airways become inflamed and narrow, which then causes an asthmatic attack.
Asthma is a minor nuisance for some people, while for others, it can be a significant problem that interferes with daily activities. Whatever the case, treatment, and management of asthma from a qualified doctor is essential so that the patient can live a long, healthy, and quality life, irrespective of the condition.
What are some of the common triggers for asthma patients?
People with asthma have inflamed airways, making them sensitive to things that might not bother people who do not have the ailment. The things that cause an asthmatic attack are called ‘triggers’, and they are unique to each patient. Additionally, while some patients might only react to a few triggers, others might respond to a multitude of them.
When tackling asthma, the first step is always understanding its triggers. Once you can figure out the catalyst/trigger for an asthmatic attack, it becomes easier to take steps to avoid them. As a result, a person will eventually have fewer episodes of asthmatic attacks, which is the primary goal of the treatment as it is not possible to cure a person of asthma.
So, if a person has asthma, they must keep track of the causes or triggers that can provoke an asthmatic attack. Because the symptoms do not always occur right after exposure, this might require the person to be cautious until their triggers have been identified. Ahead are some common triggers.
Tobacco smoke more harmful for asthma patients
While tobacco smoke (including second-hand smoke) is harmful to any healthy individual, it is even more dangerous for a person who has asthma. If you have asthma, smoking should be on your list of things you should never do, as it can aggravate your situation.
Asthma patients should also not be in the presence of smokers as ‘second-hand smoke’ can trigger an attack. Encourage people around you to stop smoking as it is worth the effort and will reduce the risk of chronic diseases, including lung cancer, heart diseases and stroke in the smoker.
Dust mites trigger an asthma attack
Defined as microscopic, insect-like pests that feed on dead human skin cells and thrive in warm, humid environments, dust mites are present in almost all homes. If a person has asthma, dust mites can trigger an attack. Some ways to prevent attacks caused by dust mites include:
• Use allergen-proof mattress and pillowcases
• Never use old and down-filled pillows, quilts, or comforters
• Make sure you wash the bedding in the house regularly
• Vacuum carpets, area rugs, and floors regularly
• Keep relative humidity levels low (around 30- 50 per cent).
High pollution levels can easily trigger an asthmatic attack
Pollution can come from multiple sources, including cars, factories, and fireplaces. This means that breathing in too much of this kind of smoke can sometimes trigger an asthma attack. While outdoor air pollution cannot be controlled, if you have asthma, it is best to stay indoors, when pollution levels are higher and always carry an inhaler when you step outside. Speak to your doctor about ways to control asthma, when pollution levels are higher – they can prescribe medicines to help you reduce any attacks.
Other triggers for asthma attack
As triggers can be unique, it is essential to keep your eyes and ears open to the below conditions/items as they are sometimes known to trigger asthma.
• Pests like cockroaches and mice produce allergens that can trigger an asthmatic attack. Cockroaches are a more common trigger for asthma, which is why it is important to keep indoor spaces clean and hygienic so that people with asthma can breathe easy
• Furry pets, including dogs, can trigger an asthma attack if you are allergic to them. If you think a furry pet can cause an asthmatic attack, you might have to consider an alternative, including the possibility of giving them away. You can check with a doctor if you can keep your pet and reduce your asthmatic attacks through medication
• Breathing in mould can trigger an asthma attack. Indoor mould growth is usually found in damp areas such as kitchens, bathrooms, basements, or in areas where water damage has occurred. It is essential to get rid of mould as they are unhygienic, and can cause breathing difficulties
• Sometimes, infections linked to influenza (flu), colds, and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) can trigger an asthma attack. Additionally, sinus infections, allergies, pollen, breathing in some chemicals, and acid reflux can also trigger breathing difficulties. Other less common triggers include physical exercise, medications, bad weather like monsoon or high humidity, food additives, and strong fragrances
Even if a person has asthma, they can still live a very productive life and participate in sports and other activities. However, it is essential that if a person has symptoms related to asthma, they should visit a specialised doctor to help them manage symptoms, learn their triggers, and prevent or manage attacks.
(Dr. Anshu Punjabi, Consultant-Pulmonologist & Sleep Medicine Expert, Fortis Hospital, Mulund)