For people with asthma, avoiding asthma triggers (things you inhale that may make your asthma symptoms worse) can be an important part of managing your condition. However, every person has different asthma triggers: While many people are triggered by allergens, mold, viruses, and chemicals, others are triggered by smoke, exercise, and perfumes. To understand the wide variety of asthma triggers that impact our community, we asked our community members, “What’s your worst asthma trigger?”
No Smoking, please
- Cigarette Smoke!!!
- BBQ smoke
- Campfires, exhaust, burning cooking oil, and many other air contaminants trigger the tightness
For our community members, the most common asthma trigger is cigarette smoke. Although smoking yourself will make asthma symptoms worse, many non-smokers report that secondhand smoke will often trigger an attack. To avoid this trigger, many of you dodge smokers on the street, avoid designated smoking areas, and decline invitations to homes where others smoke. Even in 2017, it’s difficult to avoid cigarette smoke all together, but many of you have had success with politely asking people not to smoke around you, especially in non-smoking areas.
Besides cigarette smoke, many of you identified other smoky/burning smells to be your worst triggers. From industrial pollutants to campfires and cooking fumes, air contaminants like burning and smoke can make your asthma management more difficult. While staying away these triggers may help you to avoid attacks, you should always carry your rescue inhaler in case your symptoms appear.
What’s That Smell?!
- Scented hand lotion.
- Scented air sprays!
- All perfumes & colognes
- Immediate lockdown on that stinking perfume.
We’ve all sat down next to someone only to realize that they’re wearing wayyyy too much cologne or perfume. However, for a person with asthma, strong scents are much more than annoying, they can be dangerous. For many community members, perfumes, colognes, and other fragrances trigger asthma attacks, so even if you don’t wear scented lotions and body sprays, your symptoms can be set off by the people around you. If you’re triggered by fragrances, ask your friends and family to skip their scented products on the days that they see you, and discuss your triggers with your coworkers. However, as many community members have told us, it would be great if everyone would just stop wearing strong scents all together!
Weather Report: Temperature
- When I feel my body getting cold, it starts my difficulty breathing.
- Rapid temperature change
- Cold weather. If I have to be outside for a bit, the cold air triggers an attack.
- I feel so much better in cold weather
- Hot weather AND cold weather
- The seasons changing
For many asthmatics, how you’re going to feel on any given day is as simple as checking the weather. For some of you, cold weather can trigger your asthma symptoms, while for others, your symptoms are worse in the heat. Some asthmatics even struggle with both extreme cold and extreme heat, making more mild days the most safe. For others, asthma symptoms are triggered by changing weather (such as the seasonal change from winter to spring), rather than a certain temperature. Based on your personal weather-related triggers, you may want to consider living in the best climate for your asthma symptoms, or avoiding visits to climates that may make your symptoms worse.
Weather Report: Humidity
- Muggy weather is awful for me! I live in Michigan and we have a lot of muggy days in the summer!
- Humidity– cold or hot.
- Most definitely hot humidity, and here in Virginia, it is very humid.
- Humidity. And probably the accompanying mold. But definitely humidity.
Just like some asthmatics are triggered by temperature extremes or changing temperatures, many of you are triggered by another weather-related event: humidity. For some, high humidity can lead to attacks, especially when high humidity is accompanied by mold. If you are triggered by high humidity, consider adjusting the heat and A/C in your home to lower humidity, and purchase a dehumidifier if possible.
For other asthmatics, low humidity is a trigger, making very dry climates more difficult. If you’re affected by low humidity, you can also make in-home adjustments with the heat and A/C, and a humidifier. For any asthmatics who are triggered by humidity, you may want to avoid trips to climates where the humidity will trigger your symptoms, or even consider moving to a climate where the humidity is best for you.
So. Many. Chemicals.
- Lysol spray kills me!
- Chemicals of all kinds
- Paint fumes
For many of our community members, chemicals and chemical-smells are the worst asthma triggers. Chemical triggers can take many forms, including cleaning products, household chemicals, paint, and other chemical-based products. If you’re triggered by chemicals, remove these products from your home, and talk to your employer about limiting your exposures at work. You may also ask family members to help with housework (or purchase natural cleaning products), especially if household cleaners tend to trigger attacks.
More Than The Sniffles
- If anyone has a cold or flu, etc. that I come into contact with, I pick up the infection right away.
- People who drag their virus around.
For some asthmatics, illnesses such as the common cold, flu, and other viruses can trigger asthma symptoms. In fact, respiratory viral infections are the most common asthma trigger. If possible, avoid close encounters with people who are sick, and take steps to keep yourself healthy during cold and flu season. Additionally, if you do become sick, be sure to follow your asthma action plan to keep your symptoms under control.
An Emotional Journey
- Being overtired and/or overly emotional can set it off.
- Sometimes laughing hard starts me coughing.
- Emotional events
For many of you, emotional events- good or bad- can be an asthma trigger. While some people are triggered by stress and anxiety, other asthmatics are set off by positive emotions, such as laughing too hard or other excitement. If you are triggered by stress or anxiety, take steps to limit these experiences, such as breathing and relaxation techniques, seeking professional help, and identifying and avoiding the things and people that give you stress.
Wow, It’s Dusty!
- Home dust
- Dust, even if I wear a mask
For many of our community members, dust is the worst asthma trigger. Whether you’re dealing with dust mites, dust in your home, or dust particles in the air, this common irritant can be challenging for a person with asthma. If possible, ask someone else to do the vacuuming and dusting in your home, and purchase a dust-mite proof mattress and pillows to keep your sleeping space healthy. If you know you’re going to be in a dusty environment (like during household construction), some asthmatics find it helpful to wear a face-mask to limit their exposure. You can also try these DIY home renovations to minimize dust and dust-mite exposure.
And So Many More…
- Dogs & horses
- Too much sugar intake
- Very low blood sugar
- Being pregnant
- Air blowing directly in my face
- Most fruit and a lot of vegetables
- Onions and oranges
- Pollen, pet dander
Although there are many common asthma triggers, no two people with asthma are affected in the same way! Our community members identified a variety of worst asthma triggers, from being pregnant to certain foods. Whatever triggers your asthma symptoms, we recommend you learn your triggers and document your asthma symptoms. Once you’re more familiar with your triggers and attacks, you can use this information to improve your asthma action plan and better manage your condition. You can also reach out to your asthma community to share your story, and learn how our community members avoid their worst triggers too!