Matt and Kyle usually get together at Matt's house because Matt is allergic to Kyle's cat. Sara doesn't let anyone smoke around her because cigarette smoke brings on her asthma flare-ups. Ebony thought she'd have to quit playing soccer because of her asthma — until her doctor told her that using her inhaler before every practice and game can help her stay in peak shape on the field.
Matt, Sara, and Ebony have one thing in common: They're all managing their asthma by coping with their triggers.
People with asthma have a chronic problem with their airways (the breathing tubes in their lungs). Because of asthma, the tubes are swollen and full of mucus. This problem is made worse by things like animal dander, exercise, or smoke.
Triggers are substances, weather conditions, or activities that are harmless to most people. But in people with asthma, they can lead to coughing, wheezing, and shortness of breath. Triggers don't actually cause asthma — no one knows exactly what does. But triggers can lead to asthma symptoms and flare-ups.
Different people with asthma have different triggers. That's why cats may give Matt an asthma flare up but have no affect on Ebony. Some people have one or two triggers; others have a dozen. Triggers are sometimes seasonal — like pollen in the spring. Some teens with asthma may stop reacting to certain asthma triggers as they get older.
Common asthma triggers include:
Allergens are the things people can be allergic to, like mold; dust mites; cockroaches; pollen; and animal dander (skin flakes), saliva, urine, and feathers. Allergens are one of the most common asthma triggers. If you think you might have an allergy, talk to a parent or doctor about getting allergy testing.
In addition to other treatments for allergies, doctors recommend avoiding allergens. It isn't possible to avoid everything, but here are three tips to try:
Your doctor can give you other helpful ideas.
If you have allergies that worsen your asthma, you might also need to take medication or have allergy shots. Your doctor will let you know.
For most people, irritants aren't a serious problem. But for people with asthma, they can lead to flare-ups.
Common irritants include:
Even things that may seem harmless, like scented candles or glue, are triggers for some people.
If you notice that a household product triggers your asthma, ask your family to switch to an unscented or nonaerosol version of it. If smoke bothers you, people smoking around you will be a trigger. But a fire in the fireplace or woodstove can be a problem, too.
If outdoor air pollution is a trigger for your asthma, running the air conditioner can help. Check air quality reports on the news to monitor which days might be bad for you. On days when outdoor air quality is very bad, stay in air-conditioned comfort, whether it's at your house or the mall.
Colds or the flu are hard to avoid. The best prevention is washing your hands regularly and avoiding people who are sick.
An annual flu shot is now recommended for everyone above the age of 6 months. This is especially important for people with asthma, who are at greater risk for serious complications if they get the flu. Ask your doctor to include instructions on what to do if you start feeling like you're getting a cold or the flu.
Wind can stir up pollens and molds. Rain can wash pollen from the air, so the pollen count might be lower right after it rains. But lots of rain can make the trees and grasses produce more pollen later on. Very cold or very hot weather may trigger asthma. So can humidity or very dry air.
If you know that some kinds of weather make your asthma worse, follow the forecast. Take steps to protect yourself if you know the weather is going to cause problems for you. Your asthma action plan should say what to do.
Some people with asthma have only one trigger: exercise. Along with allergens, exercise is one of the more common triggers.
Luckily, exercise is the one trigger you don't have to avoid. With help from their doctors, people with asthma can safely get the exercise they need to stay healthy and well. Talk with your doctor about special steps to take before, during, and after exercise.
There's one step you'll want to take no matter what your triggers are: Keep your quick-relief medicine with you at all times.
Reviewed by: Elana Pearl Ben-Joseph, MD
Date reviewed: January 2014
|American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology The American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology offers up-to-date information and a find-an-allergist search tool.|
|American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology The ACAAI is an organization of allergists-immunologists and health professionals dedicated to quality patient care. Contact them at: American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology|
85 W. Algonquin Road
Suite 550 Arlington Heights, IL 60005
|American Lung Association The mission of this group is to prevent lung disease and promote lung health. Contact the group at: American Lung Association|
61 Broadway, 6th Floor
NY, NY 10006
|AIRNow A cross-agency U.S. government website, AIRNow provides useful air quality information, including daily Air Quality Index forecasts and details on conditions in more than 300 U.S. cities.|
|Can the Weather Affect a Person's Asthma? Scientific studies show that weather can affect asthma symptoms. If you think weather may be triggering your asthma, here are some tips for dealing with it.|
|Can People With Asthma Play Sports? Exercise helps strengthen the breathing muscles in the chest, which is especially important for people with asthma because it can help the lungs work better. Find out which sports are best for someone with asthma.|
|Smoking and Asthma If you have asthma, you probably know that smoking is risky because of how it affects the lungs. But did you know that secondhand smoke is also an asthma trigger?|
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|Asthma Center Visit our Asthma Center for information and advice on managing and living with asthma.|
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|How Do Asthma Medicines Work? Two different types of medicines are used to treat asthma: quick-relief medicines and long-term control medicines. Read about how they work - and why people might need to take them.|
|Dealing With an Asthma Flare-Up Asthma flare-ups, or attacks, can be handled, but it's even better if you can prevent them from happening. Find out how to deal with flare-ups.|
|Exercise-Induced Asthma Some people have asthma symptoms only when they exercise. This is called exercise-induced asthma. Get some tips for coping with it in this article.|
|If I Have Asthma, Can I Keep My Pet? If you have asthma, you're more likely to be allergic to a pet than someone who doesn't have asthma. Find out what you can do if you're allergic to your pet.|
|Asthma-Safe Homes You want to feel good in your own home, right? If you have asthma, you can take steps to remove or minimize triggers at home that cause breathing problems and asthma flare-ups.|
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