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What Triggers Your Asthma?

November 9, 2010

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Asthma is an incurable inflammatory disease that affects the airways in the body. When an asthma attack is triggered the airways constrict, become inflamed which causes narrowing and mucus fills the airways. The symptoms are noticed immediately such as shortness of breath, wheezing, chest tightness, chest pain and sometimes coughing. Due to the unknown cause of asthma it is hard to know why one person is afflicted with this disease and another is not. However, in most asthma cases there are triggers that can be discovered to limit the tendency of an acute asthma attack. Not all triggers effect each person the same way, however if there are specific foods or environmental factors that can trigger an asthma attack, eliminating them from your diet or avoiding them in your surroundings can greatly decrease the likelihood and the severity of your asthma attacks.  Here are some common asthma triggers:




Allergies

 

Allergies play a role in approximately 80% of people who have asthma. However, it is not a determining factor that causes asthma because not all people with asthma have allergies. An allergy is a hypersensitive disorder of the immune system, which can cause rapid inflammatory response within the body. Allergic reactions are caused by normally harmless environmental substances called allergens. Examples include trees, grass, and weed pollens, mold, animal dander, dust, dust mites, and cockroach particles. Always make sure to keep your house clean. Irritants and allergens are easily masquerading in your carpet, in your bathroom or on your pet. Other irritants in and around the house include tobacco smoke, smoke from wood-burning appliances or fireplaces, strong odors from perfumes, cleaning agents, air pollution and vapors. Always check local weather to determine the quality of air. 

 

Food

 

Food allergies can cause a life threatening reaction especially in the case of someone who suffers from asthma. Food allergies should be taken seriously and you should always avoid foods that may contain foods you are allergic too. The most common food allergy is peanuts, however there are several others such as eggs, cow milk, soy, wheat, fish, shrimp, shellfish, salads and fresh fruit. In addition some food preservatives can also trigger an asthma attack as well. Sulfites such as bisulfite, potassium bisulfite, sodium metabisulfite, potassium metabisulfite, and sodium sulfite are all used in the processing and preparation of foods. It is harder to determine an allergy from food preservatives however any allergic reaction is quick and asthma symptoms are readily noticeable.

 

Exercise

 

During exercise the breathing rate increases which causes faster and shallower breathing. Most people when exercising breath through their mouth rather than their nose. This can cause drying of the bronchial tissues and narrowing of the airways. Our nose regulates the moisture and temperature of air before it reaches our lungs. When we breathe through our mouth the air is cooler and goes directly to our lungs, which causes constriction in the airways due to the sensitivity to change in air temperature  In most people who have exercise-induced asthma, difficulty breathing will appear within the first 5-8 minutes of aerobic exercise. Symptoms should subside over the next 20-30 minutes however it is more than likely that another asthma attack will occur over the next 6-10 hours.

 

Heartburn, Sinusitis, & Infections

 

All three of these diseases/disorders are correlated with the occurrence of asthma. When heartburn or acid reflux occurs the acid that backs up into the esophagus can reach the airways, which can irritate the lining causing an asthma attack. During sinusitis there is inflammation of the mucous membranes that line the sinuses which causes more mucus production. When the sinuses inflame the airways tend to follow suit causing an asthma attack. Bacterial or viral infections tend to cause airway constriction due to the increased mucus and inflamed airways. This can cause difficulty breathing, chest pain, and coughing.

 

Smoking

 

Everyone knows how bad cigarettes are for you, however any type of smoking, cigars, and pipes can do damage to the lungs and trigger an asthma attack. When you inhale smoke irritants settle in the lining of the airways. It damages the cilia (hair like structures that keep the airways clean) causing dirt, dust and mucus to build up and block the airway. Additionally smoke causes increased mucus production within the lungs.  This excess of mucus can trigger an attack at any time.

 

Medications

 

Sensitivity to specific medications is higher in people who have asthma. Aspirin sensitivity is the most common however susceptibility to other medication sensitivities is likely. Anti-inflammatories and beta-blockers can cause an asthma attack if the person is sensitive to these medications. Always make your doctor and pharmacist aware of your medication sensitivity before they prescribe any medications.

 

Emotions

 

An emotional reaction can also cause an acute asthma attack. When we react to something, we tend to put our whole body into the emotion that we are feeling. This physical reaction can be the trigger that causes an asthma attack. Stress, anxiety, nervousness, crying, yelling, anger, and hard laughter can all trigger asthma attacks. Although it is impossible to avoid your emotions and the way they make you react, it is important to be aware that they can trigger your asthma.