5th May 2020 (Second Tuesday of May) is observed as World Asthma Day with the aim to raise awareness about the condition and its management.
One of the effective ways to control asthma flare-ups is to identify its triggers and manage the condition. The best way to identify the triggers is to carefully study the pattern of the symptoms. For example, if symptoms occur at home, then it could be due to indoor allergens and not due to irritants present outside.
Maintain an asthma diary and note specific triggers so you can inform your doctor about these and reduce flare-ups in future. Here are some common triggers.
Both indoor and outdoor allergens can trigger asthma attacks. So you need to watch out, especially if you are prone to flare-ups on exposure to these substances.
Common indoor allergens are:
-Pets (hair, skin, fur, feathers and saliva).
Outdoor allergens include:
-Cover pillows and mattresses with plastic when not in use.
– Use a mop or vacuum instead of a broom.
– Remove stuffed toys and pets (if allergic) from bedroom.
– Discard old bedding, clothing, books and garbage pails.
– Keep AC vents and trays, house plants and shower stall dry.
– Get rid of pests such as cockroaches.
– Install air filtering devices with HEPA filters to reduce indoor allergens.
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2. Respiratory infection
Certain infections such as cold, flu, bronchitis, pneumonia and sinus infection can lead to inflammation of respiratory tract can also trigger asthma. If asthma is caused due to these infections, the severity is more and hence, keep a tab on the symptoms.
-Consult a doctor at the first sign of infection
-Wash hands frequently and stay hygienic.
-Get a flu shot or other vaccines if needed.
Irritants whether indoor or outdoor can trigger asthma, so beware of these substances. The outdoor irritants include:
-Industrial or occupational exposure to chemicals.
The list of indoor irritants are:
-Fumes from gas stoves
-Avoid unnecessary exposure to car exhaust, fumes and gases.
-Ensure cooking areas are well-ventilated.
-Avoid smoking in public places and at home.
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4. Food additives
Certain individuals are sensitive to sulphites which are added to foods to prevent spoiling and discoloration. The list of foods containing sulphites include-
-Read food labels to make sure sulphites are not present in it, if sensitive to sulphites.
-Rush to a doctor if you experience any symptoms of allergy as it can worsen asthma.
In some people, even exercising can cause asthma to flare-up. As exercise helps in strengthening the heart and lowers the sensitivity to asthma triggers, it should not be avoided.
-Ensure you start off any new exercise at a slow pace
-Do a proper warm-up before the activity
-Avoid exercising outdoors, especially in cold weathers.
It is also seen that sensitivity to certain medications can trigger an asthmatic attack. Certain drugs such as beta blockers for heart disease, aspirin and anti-inflammatory drugs should be taken with care.
-If you are sensitive to any of these drugs, inform your doctor in advance.
-Monitor and note down any reactions for all new drugs so you can inform your doctor.
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Around 20 -40% of women with asthma have reported that the symptoms worsen just before or during the periods, which is known as perimenstrual asthma. Although hormonal changes trigger asthma, the exact mechanism is not clear.
-Talk to your doctor if you experience flare-ups during periods.
-Take all medicines as advised by your doctor.
Safe Travel Tips For Asthmatics
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2. Barne C, Alexis NE, Bernstein JA, et al. Climate change and our environment: the effect on respiratory and allergic disease. J Allergy Clin Immunol Pract. 2013;1(2):137-41.
3. National Asthma Education and Prevention Program: Expert panel report III: Guidelines for the diagnosis and management of asthma. Bethesda, MD: National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, 2007. (NIH publication no. 08-4051)
4. Lucas SR, Platts-Mills TA. Physical activity and exercise in asthma: relevance to etiology and treatment. J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2005 May;115(5):928-34.