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Asthma: Identifying Your Triggers

Introduction

Asthma is a long-lasting (chronic) disease of the respiratory system. It causes inflammation in tubes that carry air to the lungs (bronchial tubes). The inflammation makes your bronchial tubes likely to overreact to certain triggers. An overreaction can lead to decreased lung function, sudden difficulty breathing, and other symptoms of an asthma attack.

If you avoid triggers, you can:

  • Prevent some asthma attacks.
  • Reduce the frequency and severity of some attacks.

You may not be able to avoid or even want to avoid all your asthma triggers. But you can ask your doctor how to identify some of the things that trigger your symptoms. He or she may suggest:

  • Being tested for allergies. If you have allergies, the substances to which you are allergic can trigger symptoms.
  • Monitoring your lung function (peak expiratory flow). Your lungs will not work as well when you are around a trigger.

How to identify asthma triggers

  1. Identify possible asthma triggers. A trigger is anything that can lead to an asthma attack. When you are around something that triggers your symptoms, keep track of it. This can help you find a pattern in what triggers your symptoms. Record triggers in your asthma diary(What is a PDF document?) or on your asthma action plan.
  2. Monitor your lung function. Check yourself for asthma symptoms. Watch for things like being short of breath, having chest tightness, coughing, and wheezing. Also notice if symptoms wake you up at night or if you get tired quickly when you exercise. If your doctor recommends it, measure your peak expiratory flow (PEF). A trigger may not always cause symptoms. But it can still narrow your bronchial tubes, which makes your lungs work harder. To identify triggers that do not always cause immediate symptoms, you can measure your PEF throughout the day. PEF will drop when your bronchial tubes narrow, so your PEF will drop when you are near things that trigger symptoms.
  3. Be tested for allergies. Skin or blood testing may be used to diagnose allergies to certain substances. Skin testing involves pricking the skin on your back or arms with one or more small doses of specific allergens. The amount of swelling and redness at the sites where your skin was pricked is measured to identify allergens to which you react.
  4. Share your trigger record with your doctor. After you have found some things that may trigger your asthma, you and your doctor can devise a plan for how to deal with them.

Credits

ByHealthwise Staff
Primary Medical ReviewerJohn Pope, MD, MPH - Pediatrics
E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine
Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine
Specialist Medical ReviewerMary F. McNaughton-Collins, MD, MPH - Internal Medicine

Current as ofDecember 6, 2017


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