What triggers your lungs?

Health | 28/04/2020
What triggers your lungs?

Do you know your personal asthma triggers? Knowing your asthma is a key to living an active and happy life and staying ahead of your condition.

Smoke, perfumes, pollen, emotions – many things may trigger an asthma attack in sensitive lungs. Sometimes it can be a little tricky to pinpoint exactly what makes you wheeze because the triggers affect individuals differently.

According to Dr. Mika Mäkelä, Professor and Chief Physician at the Helsinki Skin and Allergy Hospital in Finland, it’s worth knowing what kind of situations or things are most likely to trigger your asthma. He explains that there are many different asthma types that all have different characteristics and triggers.

“Most people only get symptoms from a single trigger such as catching a cold or having an allergic reaction,” Dr. Mäkelä points out.

According to Dr. Mäkelä, the most common triggers are infections. He advises washing your hands regularly and taking a flu vaccination each winter to prevent influenza. And if you know that your lungs are sensitive to infections, consider fist bumping or other fun greetings instead of hugging and kissing.


Do you have an allergy?

Allergic reactions are the second most common triggers of asthma. Sometimes asthma attacks are brought on by allergies people don’t even know they have. “Allergens hidden around the house are high on the list of common asthma triggers,” Dr. Mäkelä says “with dust and mould as obvious ones.”

Allergens from room fresheners or perfumes can also give trouble to your airways. “While natural scents, when objectively measured, don’t cause changes in the lungs,” Dr. Mäkelä says, “artificially scented sprays, which contain volatile organic compounds, known as VoCs, can cause irritation in the lungs of some people.”

Similarly, if you have a cat or dog allergy, you could react to pet dander that stays hidden in the soft furnishings even after a furry friend has been around. “Just remember to take your daily controller medication and antihistamine during your visit to a place with pets,” says Dr.Mäkelä, “and if you’re getting symptoms, use your reliever inhaler.”

Knowing your food allergies can also help you manage your asthma. Some people are cautious about the sulphites in drinks or sweets as asthma triggers. However, Dr. Mäkelä advises this is generally not the case: “Indulging in an extra dessert or drinking a few toasts, in moderation, should not be a particular problem for asthmatics.” However, everyone is individual so get to know what suits your palate and your asthma.


Cold weather as a trigger

The third most common trigger according to Dr. Mäkelä is exercising in cold weather. “Heavy exercise in -10°Celsius or below is typically bad for most asthmatics.” It’s because cold air is very dry and evaporates the fluid in your airways, which can trigger inflammation in your lungs.

Yet even the cold weather shouldn’t make you avoid exercising altogether. You could always switch to indoor sports or protect yourself against cold air during the winter season.

No matter what your triggers are, it’s important to have your asthma under control. Controlling your asthma with regular medication and self-observation helps avoid unexpected attacks.

“Among asthmatics, it’s definitely so, that each and every one of us needs to learn our own sensitivities, Dr. Mäkelä says, “and with this self-awareness, we can feel empowered to enjoy our life to the full.”

By Laurel Colless
Photo by iStock


Date of preparation: March 2023 / EASYH-669(1)


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