If you have asthma, you are not alone. In the United States, every 1 in 12 people suffers from asthma. Worldwide, there are an estimated 300 million people with asthma, according to the American Academy of Allergy Asthma & Immunology (AAAAI). Those 300 million people around the globe know just how frightening and sudden an asthma attack can be.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, asthma attacks are caused by “triggers” that make it difficult for air to get into the lungs and thus restrict breathing. When this happens, an asthma attack is triggered.
Everybody is different and consequentially has different triggers. In order to best manage your symptoms, keep a journal noting the date and severity of an asthma attack, as well as possible triggers. Ask yourself, what kind of environment was I in? What was I exposed to? What could I have possibly inhaled? It is easier to answer the latter questions when you know both typical and less usual triggers. Continue reading to learn what triggers may be affecting you:
Most Common Triggers
1. Pets. You may love your cuddly friend, but be wary that Health.com reports the AAAAI statistic that up to 30 per cent of people with asthma are allergic to dogs and other household pets. If you can’t part with your dog or cat, take preventative measures by bathing him or her at least once a week.
2. Dust mites. This is the big one. Health.com reports up to 90 per cent of allergic asthma sufferers are affected by dust mites. The best ways to reduce your exposure is to use a vacuum with an HEPA filter and to sleep on allergen-resistent bedding.
3. Cold air. For some asthma sufferers, cold air restricts airways. This is why Health.com recommends wearing a scarf that covers your nose and mouth when braving the chilly winter air.
4. Plug-in room air fresheners. If you like your home smelling like fall, you may want to opt for boiling cinnamon sticks in water, instead of a plug-in room freshener. According to Health.com, these little devices contain dangerous ozone and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that can wreak havoc on the airways.
Less Talked About Triggers
1. Thunderstorms. You may be surprised to learn that the rate of hospitalization for asthma attacks increases after a thunderstorm. Allergist and immunologist Dr. Myron J. Zitt explains in Everyday Health, this is because airborne allergens are released and spread during a thunderstorm.
2. Laughing or crying. Expressing intense emotions is one of the best parts of being human. But be careful next time you laugh so hard you cry. According to Dr. Zitt, heavy laughter and intense crying “is a form of hyperventilation, which, like exercise, tends to trigger an asthmatic response.”
3. Stress. Stress is bad for your overall health, and can be especially dangerous to asthma sufferers. Everyday Health reports a massive study of more than 200,000 people found that psychological stress is strongly linked to asthma symptoms.
4. Food additives. There are many reasons to choose whole fruits and vegetables over packaged foods. Dr. Zitt warns food additives that contain the word “sulfite” in them (used to preserve, color, and flavor food) are among the most asthmatic. Deli meats high in nitrates, yellow food coloring containing tartrazine, and MSG are other food additives linked to asthma.
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