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A Pain In The Asthma: What Triggers Asthma?

With lockdown finally beginning to loosen its reins, we can now go and spend as much time as we want in the sunshine - if it’s still there! Of course. You must continue to obey the social distancing of two metres with other members of the public. Whilst the sun and fresh air may trigger feelings of happiness, freedom, and better days ahead; the huge array of trees, grasses, flowers and plants all over the country may trigger your asthma.

Asthma is a condition that causes inflammation of the airway passages. The main symptoms of asthma are coughing, wheezing, breathlessness, and a tightness across your chest. Asthma can also be better or worse at different times of the day, normally first thing in the morning or last thing at night, or through the seasons of the year (in the height of summer or winter). It is more likely to get diagnosed in childhood however it is worth mentioning that it can occur at any age in life. It can be managed mainly by taking inhalers and tablets on a daily basis to stop any inflammation of the airways. The more you understand the condition, the better position you’re in to work out with your healthcare team how to manage it. Managing it well means that asthma will affect your life as little as possible.

What are Asthma Triggers?

Asthma has a wide and varied set of triggers. Anything that can be seen to exacerbate or cause your asthma symptoms are called triggers. The most common triggers for asthma are pollen, colds or flu, animals, dust mites, and smoking.

For some people, it can be a minor irritation to their breathing or coughing, but for others it can be life threatening and potentially fatal. Every ten seconds someone is having a potentially life-threatening asthma attack in the UK and on average, three people die from an asthma attack in the UK every day.

Sometimes it can be quite easy to figure out what your triggers are. For example, if you have recently come into contact with a cat or dog or people that are smoking. However, some triggers can be harder to identify as you cannot actually see them- pollen, for example, and dust mites. It is useful to try to keep a note of what is making your asthma better and worse, as this can really help you identify patterns and potential triggers specific to your asthma! Sometimes your reactions to your triggers can vary also, if you are in contact with more than one trigger at the same time then this is much more serious and could be fatal.

How Do We Overcome Asthma Triggers?

Some of these triggers can be avoided, such as cigarette smoke or animals. For the potential triggers that simply cannot be avoided like pollen, dust and the weather, you can take measures to try and reduce the likelihood of developing an asthma attack or symptoms. To do so, take these three easy steps:

Asthma Prevention Medicine

Call it your brown inhaler, the pink one, the steroid puffer, whatever! Just make sure you use it as prescribed. You will not feel the effects of these inhalers straight away since they work in the ‘background’ to help keep the airways working properly and reduce your sensitivity to triggers. This does not mean that just because you cannot feel the effects of this medicine you don’t need to use it. Taking the puffs prescribed, daily, will massively cut down the chances of you developing a reaction if you come into contact with a trigger. In doing so, you will need to use the reliever inhaler (the ‘blue one’), much less.

How Often Should I Get an Asthma Review?

Asthma is an ever changing condition that needs constant stepping up and down of medicines depending on how well controlled your asthma is. An asthma review gives you and your asthma nurse or GP time to discuss your plan and make sure it is up to date. You can check your inhaler technique and make sure you are using your inhalers as best as you can - it may be that you might need a slightly different inhaler to help streamline your symptoms, but the only way that can be found out is with a review. You can check and make sure you are getting the appropriate drug, strength, and dose to effectively cut down your risk of an asthma attack. One way of finding out that you may need a review is if you are having trouble with your coughing, particularly at night time. If you are also using your blue reliever inhaler more than three times a week, this is normally a sign that your asthma isn’t as well controlled as it could be and so a review is needed.

Use a Written Asthma Action Plan or Diary

It is vital that you use your action plan to write down when during the day your asthma is particularly bad, where you were and what you were doing. This will help in the illustration and completion of the ‘bigger picture’ when it comes to taking control of your asthma and will allow you to see when and where you need a little bit of extra help. If you do not have a plan you can find them online and fill it in with your GP or asthma nurse with the goal of making your chronic condition a little less of a pain in the ass-thma.

I can understand and empathise with you all, that it is particularly hard to try and speak with a GP or asthma nurse during the Covid-19 pandemic. If you have any symptoms of worsening asthma or possibly an attack please seek immediate medical attention. If you are finding it very hard to breath then dial 999 if you are in the UK and ask for an ambulance. But please, do not put this off in the hopes that it gets better on its own, as you will only make it worse for yourself.

Stay safe, keep well, and see you all next week.

 

Author: Matthew Jennings

MPharm