6 Ways to Reduce Asthma Attacks
By Becky Dotson
12 min read
What is Asthma?
Asthma is a chronic condition that affects more than 25 million Americans. It causes your airways to become inflamed and make them more narrow. Those who suffer from it have long-lasting inflammation and can have difficulty breathing, begin coughing and wheezing, and become short of breath. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says one in 13 people in the U.S. have asthma – and nearly eight and a half percent of them are children. The number of people who have asthma has continued to increase since the early 1980s, and while there are several theories, there’s no clear explanation why.
Unfortunately, there is no cure for asthma, but the symptoms can be controlled. For many, asthma is manageable. For others, it can be a daily struggle and lead to severe and even life-threatening asthma attacks. When an asthma attack happens, your airways become swollen and inflamed, the surrounding muscles contract, and your body produces extra mucus. All of this can lead to coughing and difficulty breathing. Often you can treat an asthma attack at home, but sometimes it requires emergency medical attention.
WHAT CAUSES AN ASTHMA ATTACK?
Coughing, wheezing, chest tightness, rapid breathing, or shortness of breath are all asthma symptoms. But it’s essential to know the signs of an asthma attack:
- Faster than normal breathing
- Chest retractions
- Pale or blue coloring in your face, lips, or fingernails
- A quick movement of your nostrils
- Rapid and deep movement in your stomach or ribs
- The chest that doesn’t deflate when you breathe out
What causes an asthma attack can differ from person to person. Trying to figure out what causes your asthma to flare up is important. However, there are some common triggers you should know.
Allergies are a common asthma trigger. It can be hard to avoid some of the things you are allergic to because they’re just in the air, you inhale them, and suddenly you’re having problems with your asthma. Here are some of the most common allergens to avoid:
- Dust Mites – The body parts of dust mites and the waste they leave behind can cause allergic reactions. Dust mites can survive all year in a warm, humid house. Lower humidity and extreme temperatures will generally kill them.
- Cockroaches – Cockroaches are a common pest in the U.S. Their bodies contain a protein that many people are allergic to, but the saliva and waste they can leave behind can also cause issues.
- Pollen – Plants, trees, and grass make small and light pollen grains that easily travel in the air and are carried by the wind. Every spring, summer, and fall, you can count on allergy issues with pollen.
- Molds – Mold can be found everywhere. It releases spores into the air that can trigger allergic reactions. July to early fall is the most common time of year for mold allergies, but they can also happen year-round.
- Pet Dander – We love our pets, but they can cause severe allergy issues. Proteins in your pet’s urine, saliva, or dander can result in an allergic reaction. Pet allergens can be found on floors, your clothes, furniture, and all kinds of other surfaces and can stay around for months.
- Air Pollutants – Cigarette smoke, smog and air pollution, wood fires, gas and paint fumes, and other particles in the air can cause your airways to become inflamed and set off an asthma attack.
Other Health Issues
Sleep apnea, Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), food allergies, acid reflux, and respiratory infections, especially if they’re not well-managed, can bring on asthma attacks.
Asthma attacks can be triggered by exercise, especially if you’re performing physical activity in cold or dry air.
Sudden changes in the weather can trigger your asthma. High heat and humidity, colder temperatures, rain, and thunderstorms can all cause an increase in your symptoms.
Whether you’re angry, fearful, or excited – all types of strong emotions can cause your breathing to change and result in asthmatic symptoms.
Beta-blockers, aspirin, and anti-inflammatory drugs that don’t contain steroids can trigger an asthma attack.
SIX WAYS TO REDUCE YOUR NUMBER OF ASTHMA ATTACKS
To avoid an asthma attack, it’s important to recognize when your asthma is flaring up and start treatment as early as possible. You should always follow your doctor’s recommendations and guidelines for the best ways to treat your asthma. But there are some things you can do in your everyday life to reduce your asthma attack chances.
Know Your Triggers
Once you’ve been diagnosed with asthma, it’s important to know what triggers it. Please pay attention to what you have been doing when symptoms begin and write them down. Monitoring your activity and recording it can help you identify what causes your symptoms to worsen, help you avoid those triggers, and cut down on your chances of an asthma attack. You can find a worksheet to help get you started here.
Take Your Meds and Follow Your Asthma Action Plan
If you have an asthma medication to take every day, then you must follow those directions – even if you don’t have symptoms. Taking your medication helps cut down the consistent inflammation in your airways, keeping your asthma under control. Always follow your asthma action plan if you notice symptoms. Your doctor’s plan specifically for you will tell you what medications you can take to help and when to seek medical treatment.
Pay Attention to Your Breathing
Your lung function may be the first thing to change if your asthma symptoms begin to worsen. It’s essential to check your peak airflow regularly and write it down. Your doctor can show you how to use a peak flow meter at home to measure how hard you can breathe out.
It’s also important to pay attention to how often you are using your inhaler. If you find yourself using it more than usual, it may not be working as well as it needs to. So, talk to your doctor about other options or adjusting your treatments.
Stay Up to Date on Your Vaccinations
Make sure you get your flu shot every year. Contracting the flu can make your asthma symptoms worse. It can also increase your chances of developing complications like pneumonia which could result in hospitalization. If you’re 19 years of age or older, you should also get a pneumonia vaccine every five to 10 years.
Stay Away from Smoke
It’s easier now than in years past to stay away from cigarette smoke since so many places don’t allow it. But it’s important to continue to avoid bars or restaurant patio areas that allow patrons to smoke. If you’re traveling and staying overnight, reserve a smoke-free hotel room. And steer clear of designated smoking areas in public. If you smoke cigars, cigarettes, or vape, get help now to quit.
It’s not just cigarette smoke that can cause trouble with your asthma. Burning candles and incense can also be triggers. Please avoid burning them at home, and ask for them to be removed from your table when dining out. Campfires are nice, but they aren’t good for asthma either. It’s important to avoid them when you can. And be sure to take in the beauty of fireworks from as far away as possible. The smoke left behind by fireworks can irritate your asthma.
Invest in an Air Purifier
There are so many pollutants in the air that can cause asthma symptoms to flare up. It may be difficult to prevent when you’re outdoors, but an air purifier can help you keep them out of the air in your home. Air purifiers can be expensive, but it’s worth the investment to make sure the air inside your home is clean and pure. Air purifiers with HEPA filters are the most effective. Designed to remove impurities out of the air, air purifiers with HEPA filters capture them and send clean air back into your home. Purifying the air you breathe inside your home can reduce the chance of having an asthma attack.
If you or someone you love lives with asthma, you know how difficult daily life can be. It takes work to figure out what triggers your asthma, but knowing what to avoid can help you significantly reduce your chances of an asthma attack.