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Asthma triggers

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We’re here to help you discover what triggers your asthma

Once you know what triggers your asthma it's easier to avoid these and prevent an asthma attack.

How can you avoid asthma triggers?

If you know what triggers your asthma, you can act fast to stop your symptoms from getting worse. To help you get to grips with asthma, it’s important to understand your triggers and learn how best to manage them. Being armed with this information makes it much easier to control your condition and hopefully, avoid asthma attacks. A ‘trigger’ is anything that causes the symptoms of asthma by irritating your lungs. Different people find their asthma is triggered by different things – you’ve just got to get to know your triggers.

What triggers asthma?

There are numerous environmental factors and things that we encounter in our day to day lives that can trigger your asthma symptoms or even an asthma attack. Here we list some of the more common asthma triggers, along with a few tips on how to avoid them and keep your symptoms at bay.

The asthma trigger list

  • Hay fever and other allergies

    If you live with asthma, you are more likely to react to pollen, mould, dust mites and fungal spores. They may make your asthma symptoms worse, as well as giving you itchy eyes, making you sneeze and making your nose run or block. We recommend that you begin your hay fever treatment a few weeks before the hay fever season starts. We can advise you on the best treatment for your symptoms and which ones are safe to use in conjunction with your asthma medicines. It’s also best to keep a check on the pollen count, and ensure that doors and windows are closed early morning and evening when pollen is at its highest.

  • Pollen

    It’s really difficult to avoid pollen as the spores are so tiny and can be blown for miles, but there are some things you can do to help.

    • Keep your windows closed at night when you’re asleep - pollen is released in the early morning and begins to fall in the evening when it cools down
    • Wear wrap-around sunglasses when you’re outdoors to help protect your eyes
    • Don’t line-dry washing outside as the fabrics can trap the pollen
    • Keep checking the pollen count forecasts to see when levels are going to be high
    • If you’re a keen gardener, avoid days with high pollen counts altogether and try to avoid early morning and early evening when the count will be at its highest
    • If you have to be outside with the pollen count’s high, you can buy special masks to filter out the pollen
    • If you’ve been outside for the day, have a shower and wash your hair when you get back home to remove the pollen
    • Keep your car windows shut when you’re driving and use a pollen filter if you can
    • Use Vaseline to stop the pollen from irritating your nose 
  • Mould

    You can find mould indoors all year round in damp and warm places, like kitchens, bathrooms and any other rooms where you have damp problems.

    • Remove mould from any surfaces in your home, and from shower curtains, tiles and fridges
    • If you have any walls suffering from mould, remove the wallpaper then treat the walls before re-papering
    • Clean mould from window frames and tackle any condensation problems
    • Open windows when you’re showering or cooking and keep internal doors closed so the steam doesn’t get into any other rooms
    • Keep an eye on your house plants as soil can easily grow mould
    • Don’t use humidifiers
  • House dust mites

    These are tiny creatures found in everybody’s homes, mainly in mattresses where they live off human skin cells. Some people find the mites’ droppings can trigger their asthma.

    • Use allergen-proof barrier covers on mattresses, pillows and covers
    • Wash all bedding every week at 60 degrees to kill the mites
    • Try and minimise soft furnishings in your home - blinds instead of curtains, wooden or laminate floors instead of carpets, and vinyl, leather or wood furniture instead of upholstered furniture
    • Wash soft toys frequently
    • If you have carpet make sure you vacuum regularly with a high filtration vacuum cleaner to trap and kill the mites
    • Wipe all surfaces every week with a damp cloth to prevent dust building up in your home

    Our allergy reliever uses red light therapy to help reduce symptoms of hay fever, and did you know that it can be used alongside medication?

  • Exercise

    During exercise, you breathe harder and the air reaching your lungs is colder and drier than usual. This can irritate the airways making them tighten and inflamed. If this happens, use your reliever inhaler before exercise.

    Our top tips

    • Always take your preventer inhaler as directed by your GP to keep your asthma under control
    • Always carry your reliever inhaler with you when you’re going to exercise
    • Make people that you’re exercising with aware that you have asthma
    • Start off gradually and make sure you warm up and down
    • If you do start to get asthma symptoms, stop exercising immediately and take your reliever inhaler. Once you feel better then you can start again

    Read more top tips on how to exercise with asthma here

    You can keep on top of your condition with our Online Doctor. We can provide you with the preventer and reliever inhalers you need for either same day collection or next day delivery.

  • Food

    Most people with asthma do not need to follow a special diet, but a small number are allergic to certain foods which can lead to an allergic reaction. This may bring on asthma symptoms such as wheezing, coughing and difficulty breathing. The most common food allergens for asthmatics are:

    Milk and milk products, eggs, nuts, including peanuts, fish and shellfish, wheat, seeds, soya and food additives.

  • Smoking

    The chemicals in cigarettes irritate and inflame the airways and lungs. If you smoke you’ll get more symptoms and need higher doses of your asthma preventer medicine to keep on top of them. Being around other people smoking will also make your asthma symptoms worse. If you need assistance trying to kick the habit, the LloydsPharmacy stop smoking service can help. Visit your nearest store to ask a member of the LloydsPharmacy team for advice about quitting smoking and information on our nicotine replacement therapy products. You can also get support from our Online Doctor. We also have a selection of products online that could help you to give up smoking, shop our range here.

    E-cigarettes and asthma:

    While e-cigarettes are not risk-free, recent evidence suggests that they’re significantly less harmful than tobacco cigarettes, both for those who smoke them, and those who are around them. However, Asthma UK advises people with asthma to avoid inhaling anything into their lungs which may be harmful.

  • Weather

    Extremes of temperature and humidity may adversely affect your asthma so make sure you always carry your reliever inhaler and keep an eye on the ever changeable weather. Damp conditions, thunderstorms, heatwaves and a sudden change in temperature are all common asthma triggers. Cold or damp air can enter your airways and trigger them to go into spasm, causing asthma symptoms, such as coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath and tightness in the chest.

    Avoid a change in weather triggering your asthma symptoms:

    • Take your medication exactly as prescribed
    • Check with your GP or asthma nurse that you’re using your inhaler(s) correctly
    • Keep an eye on the weather forecast
    • Carry your reliever inhaler with you at all times and keep taking your preventer inhaler as prescribed by your doctor
    • Keep warm and dry
    • Wrap a scarf loosely over your nose and mouth before you go out to help to warm up the air before you breathe it in
  • Infections such as cold and flu

    These can make your asthma worse. Make sure you get an annual flu jab – ask your local Pharmacy team for details of our annual winter vaccinations programme or find more information about flu vaccinations here. And always follow good hygiene routines to avoid infections.

  • Stress and anxiety

    These can sometimes make your asthma worse. Stress can make your airways more sensitive, which can increase your risk of asthma symptoms. Also, if you’re stressed you may feel too busy to do the things that help you stay well with your asthma, such as taking your medicines and going to regular asthma reviews.

    Another reason that stress can trigger asthma is because of people’s reaction to it. You may lose your temper more easily, and anger itself is a trigger. Stress can also cause people to drink or smoke more, both of which are asthma triggers in their own right.

    Why not make some lifestyle changes? Alcohol is known to increase stress and anxiety, so aim to limit your intake and get out and about or do some gentle relaxation exercises.

    Top tip: If you know a stressful situation is coming up,talk to your GP or asthma nurse about how to deal with any asthma symptoms, or how to stop them developing in the first place.

  • Animals

    Asthma can be triggered by animal saliva, skin, urine or old scales shed from the skin, also known as dander. These allergens can still be found in your home months after the animal has left. Cats seem to be the most common trigger but other animals like dogs, horses and rabbits can also cause asthma symptoms.

    • If you have a pet in your home that triggers your asthma, make sure it’s always kept out of the bedroom and living room
    • Wash your pets regularly and only groom them outdoors
  • Air pollution

    We all breathe in harmful substances when pollution levels are high, but if you have asthma, you’re more likely to feel the effects. This is because pollutants in dust, soot, diesel and traffic fumes can quickly irritate your airways and trigger asthma symptoms. Unsurprisingly, air pollution is worse in cities and around busy roads, particularly when traffic is moving slowly. So, to help, try to avoid pollution hotspots like junctions, bus stations and car parks on high pollution days. And if you’re visiting a busy city, it’s a good idea to check the pollution levels before you go.

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