Category: Asthma Triggers

riggers don’t actually cause asthma to develop, however your asthma becomes worse when you are exposed to your triggers.

What are some common triggers?
There are two basic types of asthma triggers, allergic triggers, also known as allergens are associated with intrinsic asthma. The second type are non-allergic triggers associated with extrinsic asthma. Literally anything can be a trigger and this includes:

Cockroach particles
Cat hair & saliva
Dog hair and saliva
House dust mites
Mold or yeast spores
Metabisulfite, used as a preservative in many beverages and some foods

Gas, wood, coal, and kerosene heating units
Natural gas, propane, or kerosene used as cooking fuel
Viral respiratory infections
Wood smoke
Weather changes

Avoiding your triggers
Avoiding asthma triggers sounds like a good idea and is obviously worth thinking about as part of your asthma management. In many cases it is easier said than done but if you can work out what triggers your asthma and then avoid it, even some of the time, you will undoubtedly have improved health.
Let’s say that you are allergic to cat dander. You can choose not to own a cat and start yourself on a higher dose of steroids the week before you stay with your mother who has three of them.

In reality, avoiding your triggers is not a complete solution to asthma management because it is highly unlikely that your asthma is only triggered by your allergy to cat dander. For example, laughter is a trigger for most asthmatics – you laugh, cough, wheeze, reach for the inhaler. It would be a dismal world without laughter!

Triggers such as house dust or pollen are also impossible to avoid unless you live in a bubble. Often when you cut triggers out of your life (e.g. getting rid of your cat) you get some improvement for a short time before realising that your asthma is now triggered by something else.

Tracking down a trigger
Keep an asthma diary. On the days that you get symptoms write down possible triggers. For example you could list foods eaten, exposure to irritants, contact with animals, changesin weather and so on. See if there are common item on your list.

A skin prick test can also be used to detect an allergen. A small amount of the suspected allergen (eg pollen, dander) is placed on the skin and pricked. If you are allergic, a red weal or raised patch develops. As there can be a severe reaction to the test, it should only be done at specialist clinics.

These tests are not entirely reliable and do not always match up with what the asthmatic diagnoses as an allergy. Another problem is that some asthmatics have multiple allergies, which nothing can be done about.

Why do triggers make asthma worse?
To keep us safe and out of danger, we have a system called the “fight or flight” response. Imagine you are crossing the road when a maniac drives straight towards you. The “fight or flight” response kicks in – heart rate and breathing patterns increase – and you run across the road.

Exposure to an asthma trigger, affects the body in a similar, though more moderate way. Having a chest infection for example, sets off the immune system by increasing the heart rate and breathing pattern.

In short, exposure to triggers increases the breathing pattern which leads to irritation and drying of the airways. The body responds by producing more mucus and causing inflammation in an effort to localise the invader. At the same time we lose carbon dioxide which makes the smooth muscle wrapped around the airways to spasm in bronchoconstriction.

Not all triggers are so obvious like inhaled irritants, allergens or dangers to the body such as a virus. Triggers like exercise don’t seem to set off the immune system, yet we still have an increased breathing pattern and the associated reactions to this.