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What Are Your Asthma Triggers? How Do You Avoid Them?

I've always mainly dealt with allergic asthma, so I know keeping my nasal allergies under control is key to keeping my asthma under control. I think cold weather is also a trigger for me – but I'm not exposed to cold weather often anymore, so I'm not really sure.

What are your asthma triggers? What tips do you have for avoiding them?

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  • Maryrita

    I have Asthma that is mostly controlled with my medication, however I also sinusitis  and environmental allergies – mainly smoke, industrial pollution and scent is very big for me.

    On a daily basis I use my netti pot twice a day and avoid scent whenever possible.  If someone comes into my home wearing it I ask them to clean up or leave.  You can imagine I am not most people's favourite by now but I've learned to take my health seriously.

     Generally people have little understanding of Asthma and Allergies and the effect environment or other allergents have on those affected.  To sum up my experience in this regard,  a HR Department employee once told me to go outside and get some fresh air and I would be alright while I was in crisis after a prolonged encounter in a meeting room with someone wearing extremely heavy perfume. 

     

     

  • Kathy P

    Oh no, that meeting sounds miserable! Being trapped in a room w/ your triggers is difficult. Many companies have implemented a "no perfume/scents" policy.

    It's so hard when people don't understand that "normal" things can make it hard to breathe. I'm glad you are able to stand your ground on putting your own health first.

  • Maryrita

    Thank You…

    I shortly thereafter had to resign.  Although they are a large company they did not move forward with a no scent policy.  This was devastating as my income was necessary to our household and I was in my late 50's and therefore unemployable in the small town I live.

    Being isolated because of this disease by family and friends can be very distressing which can add to further symptoms.  Over time I've come to terms with this and have become a sympathetic ear for some who find themselves in need and don't miss an opportunity to educate when opportunity arises.

  • Kathy P

    It's difficult to have to choose b/w your health and your job! Kudos on using every opportunity to educate and support others!

  • K8sMom2002

    Oh, yikes … Maryrita,  I'm so sorry you didn't have a more understanding employer. Many places do have a no-scent policy, not just for allergy and asthma sufferers but for migraine sufferers, too. 

    I think most perfumes are inspired by the devil — my least favorite aisle in the grocery is the cleaning aisle — all those cleaning products and soaps and scented candles! (Or walking by Bath and Body Works! )

    Just today my DD put on some perfume that makes my lungs feel as though they've been snatched out and stomped on. I didn't know it until she got into the car for me to drive her to school — closed environment + perfume = unhappy lungs!

    She's 14, and scents/perfumes/hairspray aren't among her triggers. They are for me!

    My triggers include …

    • scents — especially the cheaper perfumes — it must be some ingredient in them.
    • hairspray or aerosols — if I could ban Lysol, I would!
    • household cleaners (I make my own)
    • cigarette smoke
    • car exhaust
    • hay/dried grass
    • any sort of aerosolized particles in a somewhat closed place — like when I change the cat litter
    • other people's pets — I don't get why I'm tolerant of my kitties and puppies, but other people's can trigger an asthma attack
    • exercise, especially in cold weather (I have hives that sometimes go along with that — fun, fun.)
  • Kathy P

    Anyone having issues w/ pollen/environmental triggers w/ the change of seasons? My allergies have been sooooooooo bad lately! My eyes burn, my nose burns….my chest feels tight. I've been diligent about meds, so hopefully, no serious flare. 

  • Jen

    What about the hot and humid weather?  It seems to have really kicked into full gear in MD the last couple weeks.

  • K8sMom2002

    I'd always have issues, but for a time, as I got older, things seemed to ease off. This year, I can't tell whether it was environmental allergies that kicked things off or whether it was the lovely case of The Crud. 

  • HikaControl

    One really bad trigger for me is respiratory illness. Currently, I am still dealing with my asthma that was triggered by a bad cold three weeks ago.

    Other triggers: Stress(esp lack of sleep), very cold, dry or damp air, dust mites, very cold food/drinks, extreme emotions (laughing/crying)

    As a kid, I had exercised-induced asthma but I "outgrew" it.

  • Kathy P

    Welcome HikaControl!

    Respiratory illness is a common trigger – it really stinks bc things just seem to linger after kicking the virus.

    Interesting that stress/lack of sleep is a trigger. I have heard of laughing being a trigger and I remember it really surprised me when I learned about it!

  • K8sMom2002

    HikaControl, I feel for you with the upper respiratory trigger. I can see people smoking and avoid them. I can choose not to go in stables around hay. I can stay inside on humid days. 

    But I can't avoid the cold I don't know someone has. All I can do is wash hands and eat right and get enough sleep. 

    And still sometimes I'll catch something. 

    How are you taking care of yourself now?

  • Jen

    Laughing, as well as cold drinks, definitely trigger coughing for me.  Fortunately, it goes away quickly (usually in seconds or just a few mins)and doesn't persist, like the coughing can when I've had a pesky illness.

  • HikaControl

    Jen, 

    same here. It's the illness that really gives me "uncontrolled asthma". The other triggers easily goes away that rest and warm water would do the trick

  • Kathy P

    Do you have a "sick plan" from your doc to start whenever you start w/ an illness? That's what we do here. Our doc has given us directions of what meds to add/bump dose whenever an illness or allergy flare hits. This really helps to get a jump on things and can often minimize the fallout. The sick plan also has instructions on how long to continue after the flare passes as well.

    This doesn't always work 100%, so we sometimes still do wind up seeing him, but since we've already done the first step, he can move on to the next level. 

  • HikaControl

    Since most of the time I sparsely use my medication, my PCP said to puff albuterol every 30 mins and if it doesn't work she said go to the ER. I think she is talking about a worst case scenario. I've never been hospitalized nor did I go to the ER for an asthma attack. The "worst" I had was being given prednisone and inhaled steroids. The one time I went to the ER was because of dog bite.

    But in my condition, I went to the University wellness clinic and the nurse practitioner wrote a prescription for Qvar (easier to get an appt there than my PCP)

    Sometimes I wonder if it's because my mom "trained" me to detect and respond once any signs of asthma start appearing.

  • Kathy P

    My asthma action plan has something similar. Start with 2 puffs of albuterol and continue w/ 1 puff at 30 min intervals for a total of 6. At that point, head to ER or Urgent Care. That's why it's important to have a personalized plan from your doc – they know your history and how you typically respond to meds/progress and can tailor the recommendations.

  • Jen

    How is everyone doing with the summer heat?  Our latest blog post talks about how  can affect asthma.  

  • K8sMom2002

    Ooh, I hadn't thought of that. Does your local forestry service send out fire alerts and risk levels?

    The humidity is the worst for me … but I live in the country. I can't imagine living in the city during the summer with asthma — especially a southern city like Atlanta that's so car-dependent. 

  • Kathy P

    You can sign up for that are helpful.

    I was reminded of my triggers today….when the mow and blow guys were here! UGH! I had to run around shutting all the windows and doors as I saw the guys w/ dueling leaf blowers come around the side of the house! OMG the cloud of dust and pollen was ridiculous!

    I need to figure out how to deal w/ cleaning inside the house too…I tried to do some deep cleaning the other weekend and didn't get halfway through a room before my allergies flared so bad and my lungs were starting to twitch.

  • Debby

    I was diagnosed with asthma around the end of May and got a cold (it is rare for me to even get a cold) about 2 weeks later.  It was a head cold that went directly to my chest.  I am finishing up my second Prednisone taper in the morning, using my inhaled corticosteriod twice day and Albuterol as needed that has been at least 2 puffs once a day.  This is all new to me (I am a 65 year old lady) and I sure "got broken in" immediately.  I had not even established my baseline flow meter reading yet!  I am looking toward y'all for information to help me cope with this new, life altering diagnosis.  I am glad to be on your site!

  • Kathy P

    Welcome Debby and hugs on the new diagnosis. Is this the first time you've had issues like this with a respiratory infection? Asthma stinks, but for most people, it's manageable. We'll try to help answer whatever questions you have!

  • K8sMom2002

    Debby! I was a late-comer to the diagnosis of asthma, too, but looking back, I realize that I'd had twitchy lungs all my life and thought that everybody else did, too.

    What is your biggest struggle right now? And how are you faring on the Prednisone? Hate that stuff, but sometimes you just gotta have it.

  • K8sMom2002

    Kathy P, about the house cleaning … what sort of air filtration do you have? And some people swear by humidifiers, but it honestly makes mine worse.

  • Kathy P

    None! And I live where it's already fairly dry, so no need for adehumidifier. We are near-ish to the bay, but still fairly low humidityoverall. It's not like the east coast I have an appointment w/ the allergist this afternoon for an unrelatedmatter. Going to ask him if he has any suggestions.

  • Jen

    Hi Debby,

    Welcome to our forums.  How are you doing now that you've finished the prednisone?  I hope you're starting to feel a bit better.

  • Debby

    Y'all are so nice!  I finished the Prednisone yesterday morning and am just beginning to feel like a more normal human being.  My biggest struggle?  Trying to figure out when to use the inhaler.  I know when to use the albuterol (rescue) but the Flovent, I guess I may be using that one for a while because my lungs currently seem so sensitive to strong odors, the hot humid air plus I still cough alot.  I know it is not systemic cortisone but, do people use this twice a day for a long time until you are "controlled" or settled down to more normal?  My other issue is my family doctor left the area so I am currently looking for a new one and not having a "go to" person, other than my pulmonologist, is a handicap and very untimely. BUT IT WILL GET BETTER!

  • K8sMom2002

    Yes, Debby, it WILL, especially with a positive attitude like yours.  

    I've been where you are — my family doctor (literally the guy who'd taken care of me since I was little) retired, and I was left searching for another one when I was in my early 20s. It was hard going to find a doctor that "clicked" with me. 

    I finally asked one of the specialists taking care of me for his recommendation. So maybe that could be an option — ask your pulmonologist or his nurse for a recommendation of primary care physicians in your area that work well with him. 

    If it were me, I'd also call his office and ask about how much and how often you should be using the Flovent. Here's , but your doctor is the one who can determine the right dose and frequency.

    Keep us posted on what your doctor says, and if you find a good primary care doctor!

  • Debby

    I am better and so far so good without the Prednisone.  Using my inhalers and avoiding the triggers that I am aware of.  Found out today that a new doc is coming to the practice where I go and I know her.  Young, pleasant and easy to talk to so as of September I will have a family med doctor again.  Thank you for asking!

    MY TRIGGERS:  Cold air; hot humid air; cigarette smoke and the floor stripper used where I work.

  • K8sMom2002

    Oh, yay, Debby!  It's awesome that not only are you feeling better, but you also have a new doc coming to town. Pleasant and easy to talk to are ALWAYS a plus!

    Keeping a diary or a journal of your asthma attacks and what you were doing in the time leading up to it — a day or so, since some asthma attacks can be delayed — can help you figure out any triggers you may not have pinpointed.

    Here's more on .

    Keep us posted on how things go!

  • K8sMom2002

    Hi, Debby, HikaControl and Marita … just checking to see how you guys are doing today … pop in and say hi!

  • Kathy P

    How is everyone doing avoiding their triggers? I got blasted yesterday when the gardeners were here! They only come once a month, but they stir up everything! I hate leaf blowers!

    I think I need to make sure I know the schedule (dh schedules them) so I can make sure ALL the windows and sliding doors are closed. And maybe even plan to be away from the house while they are here.

    Unfortunately, I can't completely avoid it – almost everyone has mow and blow service around here and they all come on different days! Ugh!

  • glyncor

    , in reading your list of triggers, it sounds very much like my own.  Before my diagnoses, I wore only one perfume that I had made especially for me.  I began to notice that other perfumes bothered me, but I could wear mine.  After the asthma diagnoses, I understood why I could wear mine.  I know the ingredients and know that there is no normal floral scent in it – just orange blossoms.  I understand that the perfumes that are very "flowery" are the ones I react to most.  Now that I am an asthma sufferer, I understand how scents can affect people, so I only wear my perfume on very rare occasions, for fear it might affect another person.  But those flowery perfumes are absolutely the worst for me!  The really high chemical smelling ones are bad, too.

  • K8sMom2002

    I totally understand. I'm the very same way. 

    I wonder if maybe my problem is not necessarily the scent itself but something else in it? Because certain perfumes with vastly different scents but made by the same company can bring me to the ground, while a similar smelling scent (same sort of flowers) in real life doesn't seem to affect me.

    Gardenias, for instance. I have a gardenia bush, and when it's in bloom, it's heavenly. But it doesn't trigger an asthma attack. 

    But a couple of perfume/scent makers have gardenia based perfumes and soaps, and they do a number on my lungs. I have noticed that the cheaper perfumes are worse on me — even if I don't object to the scent initially — than some of the more expensive ones. 

  • glyncor
    Debby posted:

    I was diagnosed with asthma around the end of May and got a cold (it is rare for me to even get a cold) about 2 weeks later.  It was a head cold that went directly to my chest.  I am finishing up my second Prednisone taper in the morning, using my inhaled corticosteriod twice day and Albuterol as needed that has been at least 2 puffs once a day.  This is all new to me (I am a 65 year old lady) and I sure "got broken in" immediately.  I had not even established my baseline flow meter reading yet!  I am looking toward y'all for information to help me cope with this new, life altering diagnosis.  I am glad to be on your site!

    I am your age and was newly diagnosed in April 2016.  I know the feeling of being sick and trying to fight both the illness and asthma for weeks, and thinking you will never get over it.  I myself, should probably have had an asthma diagnoses several years ago because I have chronic bronchitis and have to fight my way out of it. I have had bronchitis twice a year, every year, for about 5 years.  With the asthma diagnoses, I now understand why I am so prone to bronchitis, and why each time has worsened.  The last time, I thought it was going to take my life because breathing was almost impossible.  I told my husband that this was probably what would kill me.  It is very frightening when you can't breathe and your brain says you that you should be able to.  At least now I have some tools to fight with, and I am hoping the bronchitis episodes will decrease with constant vigilance on the asthma situation.

  • K8sMom2002

    Glyncor, I was first DX'd with asthma after a tough battle with bronchitis, too. I have found that by following my doctor's advice — and by being a bit more vigilant about hand washing and staying away from folks with upper respiratory infections — that I've had less problems in recent years with bronchitis.

    Of course, there are the times I screw up — like in May, when I forgot to wash my hands after I picked up DD's meds from the school nurse, and I promptly got the crud that was floating around in the school. That turned into a lovely, lovely case of pneumonia. My lungs are better from that, but they are still kind of "twitchier" than usual. 

    We're here to help! 

  • Debby

    Hey there Glyncor!  Welcome — I guess that is what I should say!  At least we are all in this together and can hopefully support each other.  I am almost afraid of the impending Flu season BUT at least I know what I have, can get a Flu shot and will contact my doctor IF it would hit.  Keep us informed of your progress and/or challenges.

  • Jen

    Debby – do you have a plan from your dr about how to handle meds when you get sick?  Do you need to up meds or take any additional meds?

  • Debby

    PS — I am an RN, actually an Infection Control Nurse, so handwashing and using hand sanitizer is soooo important.  I keep bottle in a little "cubby hole" in my car (I'm sure there is a real name for it but is that important?!!).  After pushing a shopping cart with who knows what germs hanging out on the handle, I use it before touching the steering wheel.  I was on top of things before but since asthma, I am really conscious of having clean hands. 

  • Jen

    I hear you about the handwashing.  We were super conscious about it – we were already pretty good about it before – when dh was going through chemo and radiation.

  • Debby

    Jen, My family doc relocated about 2 weeks after my diagnosis from the pulmonologist to whom she referred me.  Then 2 weeks after that, I got the head cold described in an earlier post.  I knew the pulmonary doc from having worked at the hospital, so I called him and he cared for me through that month long event.  My new doc is due to start the middle of Sept (not soon enough!) and I know her, so I am looking forward to establishing an action plan and asking a dozen or so questions.  I have kind of been "flying by the seat of my pants" since my diagnosis.  I said all of this to explain to you — I don't know about meds and action plans, since I am newly diagnosed,  been sick only once and continue to hope the Good Lord keeps me healthy until my doc arrives!  What do YOU do?

  • Kathy P

    I had bouts of bronchitis every year before I was dx w/ asthma. Now, I rarely wind up bronchitis, but I do wind up with an asthma flare from URI (upper respiratory infections). But if I start my "sick plan" ASAP, I can often fend off the worst of it. Hopefully you will find the same Glyncor.

  • glyncor

    K8SMOM

    K8sMom2002 posted:

    Glyncor, I was first DX'd with asthma after a tough battle with bronchitis, too. I have found that by following my doctor's advice — and by being a bit more vigilant about hand washing and staying away from folks with upper respiratory infections — that I've had less problems in recent years with bronchitis.

    Of course, there are the times I screw up — like in May, when I forgot to wash my hands after I picked up DD's meds from the school nurse, and I promptly got the crud that was floating around in the school. That turned into a lovely, lovely case of pneumonia. My lungs are better from that, but they are still kind of "twitchier" than usual. 

    We're here to help! 

    Hello, and thanks for responding.  Yes, the exposure to others who are ill is key.  Unfortunately, by time you realize someone is ill, or a little under the weather, you have already hugged them and talked to them – soooooo, there you are – exposed.  Ugh!   We have a close church family and things go around there like a firestorm during flu season. 

    I have seen several people on this site use the term "twitchie lungs."  Can you explain this to me, please? 

  • glyncor
    Kathy P posted:

    I had bouts of bronchitis every year before I was dx w/ asthma. Now, I rarely wind up bronchitis, but I do wind up with an asthma flare from URI (upper respiratory infections). But if I start my "sick plan" ASAP, I can often fend off the worst of it. Hopefully you will find the same Glyncor.

    Kathy P, I sure hope my asthma treatments will help prevent more incidences of bronchitis.  The last one just about did me in.

     

  • glyncor

    What are my triggers?  Well, I am still adding them onto a list, but so far my list is:

    -Perfumes-Chemicals/cleaners-Fresh cut grass-Smoke-Molds-Cats – seriously, cats (last exposure nearly sent me to hospital)-Excessive plastic (our church put up painted plastic scenes for vacation bible school all around the walls of the sanctuary, and it was very bad.  I don't know if it was the paint in the plastic, or the plastic itself.  I have heard that the plastic and paint could contain spores that would be a problem if breathed in.)-Excessive dust-Pollen-Flowers inside, especially Lily family-???