An asthma trigger is something which either makes your existing asthma symptoms worse or actually provokes these symptoms.
Just like allergies, asthma can be triggered by certain things. Whilst some of these things are actual allergens such as mold spores or pet dander, this is not necessarily the case. The triggers can also be both from the environment, i.e. outside or something within the body.
One link with allergies and asthma is that allergic reactions invariably involve the release of the chemical histamine into the blood. Not only does this cause many of the usual allergic symptoms such as hives and itchy eyes it can provoke an asthma attack.
If you can identify the things that trigger your asthma it will help greatly in managing the condition.
What can trigger an asthma attack?
Any number of things can make your asthma worse. Some are relatively easy to avoid, others not so and some are quite surprising.
Many alcoholic drinks can not only leave you feeling rotten the next day but bring on your asthma too. It isn’t the actual alcohol itself which is the problem but some of the substances in the drink.
The chemical histamine is particularly common in red wines and some beer. This is the same chemical that is released by the body in an allergic reaction and can also trigger asthma symptoms.
Another type of substance found in a range of alcoholic drinks are sulfites. These preservatives have been shown to significantly worsen symptoms in up to 10% of asthmatics.
Drugs and medicines
In a small number of people certain medicines can be a trigger for asthma. One of the most common of these are drugs containing salicylates. These are found in a range of painkillers / anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen and aspirin.
The other group of medicines that are most likely to trigger asthma are beta-blockers. These are most commonly prescribed for heart conditions but may also be used for high blood pressure, migraines and glaucoma.
Strong emotions, particularly negative, can be a trigger for asthma. So if you have ever thought your asthma gets worse during times of stress then you may well be right.
It seems all strong emotions can be a trigger though, even laughter, which seems a little unfair. Excitement, anger, sadness – they can all make some people’s asthma worse.
The reason for this is not clear although one theory is that heightened emotions increase your breathing rate much in the same way exercise does.
Exercise is one of the best known of asthma triggers, although if well managed you should be able to keep it under control. That’s certainly the case for many of the world’s elite athletes, a surprising number of whom suffer from asthma.
Exercise-induced asthma is believed to be caused by the increased air flow and the fact that this often goes through the mouth. That means the XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXx
Food allergies and asthma do overlap but there is some difficulty separating the cause and effect. A serious allergic reaction to food can cause symptoms similar to asthma, i.e. wheezing, coughing, tightness in the chest and difficulty breathing. This can make it difficult to distinguish a food allergy from asthma.
Whilst it is possible that food is trigger your asthma any similar symptoms occurring directly after eating could be a sign of a severe, even life-threatening allergic reaction.
Some women report that their asthma symptoms become worse as their hormone levels change. This tends to be worst just before menstruation, although any large fluctuation in certain female hormones may be a trigger.
If you live somewhere that gets damp and cold then the chances are you will encounter mold (or mould). It is actually the microscopic spores of these fungi that cause the problem and whilst these may be encountered outdoors they tend to be more of an issue indoors.
The body’s normal response to mold spores is to eject them by sneezing or coughing. However, for those who are allergic to mold spores the elevated reaction may also be a trigger for asthma.
Pets and other animals are a well known asthma triggers. Whilst most frequently it is the family pet it can be virtually any animal. It is the animal’s skin flakes (dander), saliva and urine which tend to set off allergies.
People whose asthma is triggered by animals are likely to have a pet allergy which, as part of the reaction, is affecting breathing as well as the more common symptoms.
Yep, you read it right!
Colds, flu or any other respiratory infection have the ability to make your asthma worse. The precise reason for this is not clearly understood but it is thought to be related to the higher than normal levels of inflammatory substances in the cells of the respiratory system.
The weather, and more specifically changes in the weather, are a well known trigger for asthma. In the region of three-quarters of people with asthma say that cold air can trigger their asthma. But it isn’t just the cold; damp, hot and even thundery weather can all have an effect on your symptoms.
Cold or damp weather can trigger asthma by sending the airway into spasm. However, why other types of weather can trigger asthma is less clear. Hot weather may have a direct effect on the airways but it is thought more likely that it is related to raised pollution levels as the temperature rises.
As for thunderstorms; the relationship is very real but the cause can only be guessed at. Current thinking is that the increased humidity and wind agitate pollen and mold spores in the atmosphere and bring them into contact in higher concentrations.