Asthma is one of the most common chronic diseases in the United States as it affects approximately 15 million people.
Typically, asthma attacks are triggered by a variety of common substances. Inflammation of the airways causes an asthma attack, which leads to shortness of breath, wheezing, coughing and chest tightness. During an asthma attack the airways tighten and the airway lining swells, which reduces the amount of air that can pass into the lungs.
Emergency Asthma Symptoms
It is common for individuals with asthma to have a family history of allergies. Asthma attacks can last a few minutes up to several days. Some people have abnormal breathing patterns and it takes them two times longer to breathe air out. Breathing may even temporarily stop in some people.
Emergency symptoms that require immediate medical attention include:
- Extreme difficulty with breathing
- Lips and face turning blue
- Rapid pulse
- Extreme anxiety because of shortness of breath
- Profuse perspiration
- Level of consciousness may become drowsy or exhibit confusion
- Chest pain may be present along with tightness in the chest
Substances which cause asthma attacks are referred to as allergens or asthma triggers. Asthma triggers for one individual might be totally different than the triggers for a different person. It is important to be aware of triggers in order to avoid them.
Avoiding Common Asthma Triggers
Here are some common asthma triggers to avoid:
1. Tobacco smoke, including secondhand smoke.
2. Dust mites – Use pillowcase and mattress covers to create a barrier to avoid dust mites.
3. Animal pet hair and dander – Bathe pets weekly, vacuum frequently and damp mop wood or tile floors. Wash bedding in the hottest water.
4. Foods or chemicals in foods – Many people are allergic to foods and they will cause an asthma attack. Common food allergies include milk, eggs, nuts, fish, shellfish, soy and wheat. Read labels carefully to avoid food allergies.
5. Dust – Change furnace filters frequently. Keep furniture dusted. Air-purifiers are also useful.
6. Outdoor Air Pollution and Pollen – Listen to forecasts on the air quality and schedule appointments when pollution levels are low whenever possible.
7. Changes in weather – Cold weather may cause asthma attacks, so again try to schedule trips outside of the home when the weather is warmer.
8. Cockroach allergen – As cockroaches and their droppings can trigger asthma attacks; remove any water or food sources that attract them. Keep floors swept and attempt to rid the house of these pests.
9. Mold – If humidity is a problem, use a dehumidifier and an air conditioner to keep the humidity low, ideally below 50%. Make sure mold is removed around the bathtub and showers. Repair any water leaks promptly.
10. Smoke from burning wood or grass – Stay away from anyone burning leaves and any fires.
11. Exercise – Some people do not tolerate exercise becoming short of breath, which leads to an asthma attack.
12. Strong emotions with stress cause the breathing to become more rapid, which can also trigger an asthma attack.
13. Medications – Aspirin along with some anti-inflammatory drugs trigger asthma is some people.
14. Infections – Flu, colds, sinus infections, respiratory infections and acid reflux can all trigger asthma attacks.
How to Control Your Asthma
Following the instructions of your physician and take all medication as ordered. Determine the asthma triggers and avoid them as much as possible. Try to stay indoors when the humidity is too high or when the temperature is too cold.
Stay away from people that are ill to avoid respiratory infections. Practice good hand washing, particularly after you have been out. Get a flu shot annually. If you use an inhaler keep one handy at all times in case of an attack. Remember prevention is always the best choice.