Managing Asthma & Irritants
People with asthma can learn to identify and avoid the things that trigger an episode, and they can educate themselves about medicines and other asthma management strategies.
According to the most recent Guidelines for the Diagnosis and Management of Asthma, published by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, "Asthma is a chronic disease. It has to be cared for all the time—not just when symptoms are present."
The four parts of asthma management are:
- Identify and minimize contact with asthma triggers.
- Understand and take medicines as prescribed.
- Monitor asthma to recognize signs when it is getting worse.
- Know what to do when asthma gets worse.
Work with a healthcare professional to determine the best way to take care of your child's asthma. There are specific guidelines for children from infants to 4 years old, 5 to 11 years old, and 12 and older.
The more information a person with asthma has, the better asthma can be controlled.
What are the triggers that can cause an asthma attack?
According to the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases, the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology and other organizations, triggers for asthma include:
- House dust/dust mites
- Certain foods
- Animal protein (dander, urine, oil from skin)
- Strong odors and sprays, including perfumes, household cleaners, cooking fumes, paints and varnishes
- Chemicals such as coal, chalk dust or talcum powder
- Air pollutants
- Changing weather conditions, including changes in temperature, barometric pressure, humidity and strong winds
- Exposure to chemicals on the job such as occupational vapors, dust, gases or fumes
Exercise can trigger an asthma attack often because of the inhaled cool and dry air. Long-term strenuous activities such as long distance running are most likely to induce asthma while activities such as swimming are the least likely.
Tobacco smoke, whether directly or passively inhaled, has been shown to worsen asthma.
Wood smoke from wood-burning heating stoves and fireplaces can release irritating chemicals such as sulfur dioxide.
Respiratory Infections and Sinusitis
Infections can cause irritation of the airways, nose, throat, lungs and sinuses, which worsens asthma.
Sensitivity to Medicines
Medicines such as aspirin and sulfites may cause asthmatic attacks as a result of sensitivities or allergies to them. These medicines often include:
- Other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medicines, including ibuprofen, indomethacin, naproxen
- Sulfites used as preservatives in food and beverage
Before giving your child any medicine, including over-the-counter medicines, talk with your child's physician.
GERD, a condition characterized by persistent reflux of stomach acids, is common in individuals with asthma. Symptoms may include heartburn, belching or spitting up in infants.
Emotional Anxiety and Nervous Stress
Reactions from stress and anxiety are considered to be more of an effect than a cause. They can cause fatigue, which may affect the immune system and, in turn, either increase asthma symptoms or bring on an attack.