In contrast to the uncertainty about risk factors for developing asthma, many factors are known to worsen asthma symptoms in individuals who have already been diagnosed with the disease. Knowing these triggers can help you create an asthma free home.
The majority of individuals with asthma are allergic to at least one allergen, and exposure to them often triggers asthmatic symptoms. Exposure may be seasonal, as with pollens such as ragweed, or year-round, as with dust mites and pets. Efforts to avoid allergens, such as using mattress covers to reduce dust mite exposure or keeping windows closed during pollen season, have been shown to reduce asthma symptoms.
In patients with established asthma, viral upper respiratory tract infections frequently trigger severe asthma attacks. Rhinovirus, which causes the common cold, is the most frequent asthma trigger. Influenza virus is also a common trigger, so doctors recommend that patients with asthma receive a flu shot every year. Researchers are currently examining whether certain chronic bacterial infections common in the lungs of people with asthma have the ability to induce asthma attacks. Rhinitis, or inflammation of the nasal passages causing congestion and a runny nose, and sinusitis, an infection or inflammation of the sinuses, are associated with worsening of asthma.
Exercise-induced asthma symptoms commonly start during exercise and are usually most intense immediately after the person stops exercising. Outdoor exercise when specific environmental allergens like pollen or ragweed are present in high amounts can lead to worsened symptoms and should be avoided during allergy seasons. Exercising in cold or humid weather is also associated with an increased risk of an asthma attack.
Gastroesopageal reflux disease (GERD), a condition characterized by changes in the barrier between the esophagus and the stomach, is more common among asthmatics than the general population. It is estimated to be present in up to 65 percent of asthmatics, many of whom have no symptoms of GERD. Studies are underway to determine if asthma and GERD simply commonly co-exist, or if GERD can actually worsen asthma symptoms by allowing acidic stomach contents to irritate the esophagus and trachea, triggering a sudden constriction of the small airway muscles and inducing an asthma attack.
Five to ten percent of individuals with asthma are sensitive to acetylsalicylic acid (ASA, found in drugs like Aspirin) and similar products and develop acute, sometimes severe, asthma symptoms shortly after ingesting them. Such patients are advised to avoid all ASA products, including ibuprofen (found in Motrin Advil) and naproxen (Aleve). On the other hand, acetaminophen (Tylenol) is not associated with worsening asthma symptoms.
Do a Healthy Home Checkup to rid your home of any indoor pollutants which may contribute triggering asthma.