Last updated: August 2022
There are many things that can trigger asthma. We all have different things that send us into an immediate flare-up. Just like asthma is not a one size fits all disease, the same goes for our triggers.
We each have our own asthma triggers
What causes my asthma to act up might not bother yours at all and vice versa. There are some triggers that seem to be more common than others. These include things like smoke and allergens. There is one trigger that stands out amongst just about every person with asthma: FEAR.
Fear itself is individual. What causes fear within me might not bother you at all. So, in a sense, it is still a different trigger in terms of its origin for each of us.
I personally am not normally an anxious person by any means. But there is one exception.
I suffered some pretty significant dental trauma as a child which has followed me into my adult life. Just thinking about the dentist and having to go makes my heart rate and respiratory rate increase. When I walk into the door of the dentist's office, I will start to shake and try to hold back tears.
My fear of the dentist is quite embarrassing and something I don’t generally talk about. But it is something that needs to be talked about because we all have that one thing that we are very fearful of. Learning how to deal with it and get through it is so important because fear affects breathing.
Fear-induced asthma symptoms
Fear can absolutely trigger asthma symptoms. When you are exposed to something that causes fear and/or anxiety, your body goes through the “fight or flight” response. When going through this response, the body releases stress hormones. These hormones cause your heart rate to increase, faster and more shallow breathing. Your body also tenses up even if you don’t actually feel it happening.
This combination of things causes the perfect storm within the body and can lead to an asthma flare-up. When we are anxious or fearful, it can cause breathing difficulty and when we can’t breathe we become anxious. It is a vicious cycle that can be difficult to overcome. Here are a few things that have helped me tremendously when dealing with my fear of the dentist.
Steps to overcome fear
I did a lot of researching into dentists since we moved to a new town a couple years ago. Once I narrowed my search down I opted to meet with the dentist beforehand to talk about my fears and explain my past traumatic dental experiences. I feel like I hit the jackpot with my new dentist because he is so kind and compassionate.
We are our own best advocate. This goes for our own asthma care as well as anything else in our lives. I have learned to speak up for myself at the dentist and ask that I am told exactly what they will be doing. This (as well as nitrous oxide) helps put me at ease and I am less anxious. Be sure to communicate upfront, if you are able, as it will hopefully help ease your fear a bit. Using your voice gives you power over the situation.
Self pep talks
Give yourself a pep talk. I tell myself over and over while in the dentist chair that they are here to help me, not hurt me. I will focus on my breathing and try to keep it slow and steady. I will also think of something fun or relaxing I will be doing when I leave the office and head home.
Offsetting fear-induced asthma symptoms
These tips can be helpful when dealing with many other sources of fear and anxiety. Not just the dentist as I used as an example for this post. Trying to remain calm can sometimes feel like an impossible task when you’re scared or anxious. At times it is absolutely easier said than done for all of us. All we can do is try our best to breathe. If you feel comfortable sharing how you help overcome and get through fearful anxiety-inducing situations I would love to hear them!
Has laughter ever triggered your asthma?