One of the best ways to manage your asthma is to understand what triggers it.
Once you understand that, you can be prepared, plan how to avoid them and be more in control of your asthma.
Everyone’s triggers are different, but here are ten of the most common asthma triggers.
Top Ten Asthma Triggers
1. Colds and Flu
No one enjoys having a cold or the flu, but if you have asthma you might notice it triggers your symptoms. The latest study from Imperial College London1 suggests that when you’re infected with the common cold, it causes an increase in inflammation in your airways. This can then cause narrowing of your airways and potentially cause asthma symptoms.
There is no guaranteed way to avoid a cold or flu. But, there are a few steps you can take to improve your chances of staying healthy. These include washing your hands, eating healthily and considering a flu vaccination.
Dust is a common trigger, both for asthmatics and those who have allergies. The main cause of dust allergies are insects called dust mites, which can’t be seen with the naked eye. They are usually found in bedding and mattresses.
House dust can also be a trigger; this is because it can contain tiny particles of pollen, mould and deterrents. All of which can trigger asthma on their own.
As a trigger, dust is a hard one to avoid, so the best way to stay in control of your asthma is to take your medicine as prescribed. Find out more about asthma treatment here.
3. Air Pollution
We all breathe in harmful substances when pollution levels are high, but if you have asthma, you’re more likely to feel the effects. This is because pollutants in dust, soot, diesel and traffic fumes can quickly irritate your airways and trigger asthma symptoms.
Unsurprisingly, air pollution is worse in cities and around busy roads, particularly when traffic is moving slowly. So, try to avoid places like junctions, bus stops and car parks on high pollution days. And, if you’re visiting a busy city, it’s a good idea to check the pollution levels before you go.
If you have asthma, you’re more likely to experience hay fever or other allergies. According to Asthma UK, roughly 80% of people with asthma also have a pollen allergy. To find out more about this, check out our blog on asthma and allergies.
Some people find that exercising can trigger their asthma symptoms. This is because when you exercise you’re more likely to breathe in through your mouth, which means the air is colder and drier than when you breathe in through your nose (as your nostrils warm and moisten air). If your airways are sensitive to these changes in temperature, they react by getting narrower and can potentially cause asthma symptoms.
The best way to avoid exercise triggering your asthma is to make sure it’s well managed. Here’s more information about staying active with asthma.
6. Cigarette Smoke:
The chemicals in cigarettes irritate and inflame your airways and lungs. If you smoke, you may get more symptoms and may therefore need higher doses of your asthma preventer medicine to keep on top of them. Being around other people smoking may also make your asthma symptoms worse. If you live with a smoker, or have guests, who smoke, ask them to smoke outside well away from doors so that the smoke doesn’t drift into the house.
7. Perfumes and Aerosols
Strong perfumes or aerosols are a common trigger for asthma because they can be an irritant to your nose and lungs. The best thing to do would be to avoid strong scents, if you know a family member or friend who has a signature fragrance which often triggers your asthma, you could ask them to avoid wearing it around you. However, avoiding perfumes isn’t always possible. So make sure you take your medication as prescribed and talk to a GP, asthma nurse or one of our pharmacists if you’re unsure about anything to do with your asthma.
Stress can make your airways more sensitive, which can increase your risk of asthma symptoms. Also, if you’re stressed you may feel too busy to do the things that help you stay well with asthma, such as taking your medications and going to regular asthma reviews.
Another reason that stress can be a trigger is because of people’s reactions to it. You might lose your temper more easily, and anger is also a trigger in its own right. Stress can also cause people to drink or smoke more, both of which are asthma triggers in their own right.
9. Moulds and Fungi
Mould, more specifically mould spores that are released into the air and inhaled, can be a cause of both allergy and asthma symptoms. If you have allergies or asthma, your immune system could be recognising the spores as harmful which would then trigger your symptoms.2
Mould can often grow quickly, and then be hard to get rid of. So the best thing you can do is to try and prevent it happening, so make sure any leaks are fixed and all spills are cleaned up.
10. Paint Fumes
If you find paint fumes trigger your asthma, make sure that you always keep your windows open when you’re decorating.