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magnifying glass revealing asthma triggers

Asthma Clue: The Trigger Mystery Game

I have written several blog posts about elusive asthma triggers, such as “The Case Of The Missing Asthma Triggers.” Sometimes we have flareups that persist and yet the trigger eludes us. That’s kind of what I’m experiencing right now. Finding that one culprit is akin to playing a game of Clue. You have the culprits. You know the weapons. And you have to figure out which one it is. Who did it?

The current status of my asthma severity

My asthma pales in comparison to when I was a kid. Someday I will write a post about my theories explaining this interesting phenomenon of how asthma changes with age. So, what I’m experiencing now is mild chest tightness and mild shortness of breath. I’d like to say it doesn’t prevent me from doing what I would normally do, but to say so would be untrue.

It’s causing me to use my rescue medicine. And, if you follow me, you know I went so long without using it I wrongly pronounced my asthma as cured. Actually, I quipped that “I Sold My Asthma.” Of course, I said this in jest, knowing that this wasn’t true. And I ended that post with a disclaimer saying as much.

Figuring out the offending asthma trigger

And today’s game of asthma clue is a good example. Actually, the last two weeks is a good example. I’m having this mild flare-up and the trigger eludes me. But, I have some theories. I know who the culprits are. It’s just a matter of figuring which one it is.

So, here are the six suspects.

  • Mr. Chair. He sits idly by in the living room. He came from the moldy basement of a friend’s house. He moved to my living room because he is so cozy and comfortable. But, the fact he was stored in that basement may mean he’s covered in mold spores. If this suspect proves to be the culprit, it means banishing him from my home for good. That won’t make my daughter so happy. She has claimed that comfortable chair as her own.
  • Mrs. Pollen. She floats around outside, yet you cannot see her. But, as soon as those trees and plants start blooming she makes her presence known. Usually, it’s with sniffles, sneezes, and wheezes. But, this year, if she’s the culprit, her symptoms are a bit unique. Well, that’s just how it is when you have asthma. If she’s the culprit there’s not much I can do. My asthma friends will tell me I can avoid her by keeping my doors and windows shut. I can avoid her by wearing a mask when I have to be outside. But, I’m not a fan of either of these solutions. So, if she’s the culprit, I might have to just tough it out. I certainly don’t want to sit indoors when it’s so beautiful outdoors.
  • Mr. GERD. Yeah, he’s a nasty fellow who lives in my gut. I try to stave him off by using a medicine called Prilosec daily. But, those occasionally coughing spasms make it look as though GERD is guilty as all get out. But, still, this is mere speculation at this point. If he is found to be guilty, the solution will be the no fun anti-reflux diet. And, Lord knows, no one wants to endure that.
  • Ms. Dust Mites. LIke pollen, she does a good job of hiding. In the past, she’s been spotted hanging out on my baseball cards. I shuffle through, sort them out, and she makes her way into the air. So, you inhale and this causes the symptoms. Now, I’ve been spending lots of time with these cards lately. So, suspecting she might be the culprit, I’ve put those cards into storage for a while. If I get better in the next few days then I’ll probably know who did it.
  • Mr. Fatsma. Yep, I’ve gained a few pounds over the past year. Sorry, it just happens when you get busy in life. And that Mr. Fatsma has a way of creeping up on people. Those fat cells tend to release chemicals that might trigger asthma. So, if this guy is the culprit, a trip to the gym and a diet are the answer.
  • Mrs. Respiratory Virus. This is my #1 asthma trigger. It’s possible it could just be presenting itself in strange ways.
  • Mr. Bacteria. Same here. He could be showing himself in strange ways. (Note: A week later I went to the ER. My doctor figured this is what it was. Guilty! He was found hiding along the tissues of my airways in his typical fashion. His weapon: His sheer brilliance at causing symptoms and eluding capture.)

This is not a patented game.

It’s not limited to just me. I’ve met many asthmatics in my life. I’ve met them at the asthma hospital when I was a kid. I met them at work. I work with some of them. I’ve met many in communities like this. And I can tell you I know that most asthmatics sometimes have to play detective. What is the trigger? What do I need to get away from? And, sometimes, we have to play, “Asthma Clue: The Trigger Mystery Game.”

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.


  • Weezer
    10 months ago

    What if your trigger is something totally different. I have had my aminophylline increased and the doctor said to track my pulse rate to see if I’m becoming more tachycardic than usual. So I bought a pulse oximeter thinking it’s pretty cheap online so I’m tracking the levels the week of my increased and I mentioned I was pretty surprised the levels went down. However on one occasion I still had it on my finger and I was texting a colleague I about a stressful work situation and I thought I switched the pulse oximeter off. But it was no as I was getting annoyed as I was reading the text at the situation. The pulse rate leaped up and the the oxygen levels went way low as it started shock realisation was that as I got annoyed I started breathing short and started coughing. So my trigger is clearly stress.

  • Samuel Taylor moderator
    10 months ago

    Hi Weezer,

    Thank you for the question. If your trigger is something totally different, then it is still your trigger and should be respected as such.

    It sounds like stress and/or anxiety might be a trigger for you, but it sounds like you are aware of that now. That is a great thing.

    If you are conscious of your trigger then it makes it easier to control your asthma and stress being a trigger is kind of a blessing in disguise. I would recommend looking into ways to manage your stress better, which should not just have a positive effect on your asthma but many aspects of your life.

    I’m wishing you the best, please keep us updated on how you’re doing and let me know if you have any questions.

    -Samuel, team

  • Weezer
    10 months ago

    @samueltaylor that was a huge blessing actually that I picked up that reaction in that way. I just snapped out of it and thought right breathing exercise and get back to a calmer mindset.

    I’m actually finding this re-education of severe asthma for me liberating and above all accepting the fact it’s severe asthma and that I may need to also increase the Aminophylline again is really liberating. I’m kind of suffering alone and juggling a lot of inhalers and using a nebuliser at home too.

  • Shellzoo
    10 months ago

    I have been playing “what is the trigger” all week. I suspect the tree pollen that has hit SW Michigan this past week. My rescue use is pretty much daily. Usually feeling a little tight, coughing and short of breath. A few wheezes too. I don’t feel horrible but have been using my Ventolin before I do. Today it is a high pollen day with a wind alert. I have stayed inside other than to walk the dog but my upper back ache tells me my chest is getting tight so some more Ventolin is in order. I was up much of last night with mild asthma symptoms. Hopefully the offending tree will leaf out and stop spreading it’s pollen and I will get relief. Great article as figuring out asthma triggers is tricky. I talked about that with my allergist at my last appointment.

  • John Bottrell, RRT moderator author
    10 months ago

    Thanks again for sharing your story,
    Shellzoo . And I think this is also why it’s so important to have that good asthma control. As you know, it certainly doesn’t mean we never have symptoms. But, I wouldn’t want to imagine how much worse these “flare-ups” would be if it weren’t for modern controller medicines that we take every day. John. Site Moderator.

  • Leon Lebowitz, RRT moderator
    10 months ago

    Hi Shellzoo – glad to see you’ve been your very own detective in trying to identify the offending trigger this week. How did the conversation go with your allergist that you mentioned? Leon (site moderator)

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