In the US, about 25 million people suffer from asthma attacks. More than a quarter of those affected are children. Asthma patients lose a large number of work and school days due to these attacks every year. Asthma is a troublesome, chronic and incurable disease, but it can be controlled. You can reduce the frequency and intensity of asthma attacks if you understand what causes asthma and what triggers the attacks.
Asthma – Basic information
The onset of asthma can occur at any age, but in most cases, symptoms start during early childhood. Although there is no cure, asthma attacks can be treated effectively. There are two types of asthma attacks: allergic and non-allergic. Allergic asthma is triggered by a substance that the body is sensitive to. An allergist may be able to help identify the allergen and prevent some of these attacks.
A typical asthma attack causes sudden shortness of breath accompanied by raspy cough, wheezing and tightness in the chest. This is due to the sudden constriction of bronchial tubes, which impedes smooth airflow to and from the lungs and makes breathing difficult and painful. An asthma attack can be triggered by allergens or due to a normal change in breathing pattern. The circumstances that trigger attacks can also make it worse.
Understanding the causes of Asthma
Although the exact causes of asthma are not known, a combination of genetic and environmental factors puts people at higher risk. Here are the six common causes of asthma.
1. Family history
Research shows that the probability of getting asthma is very high in children if one or both parents suffer from asthma. Asthma risk also increases if there is a history of eczema or allergies in the family.
2. Mother smoking during pregnancy
Studies show that a child is at higher risk of asthma if the mother smoked during pregnancy.
3. Birth circumstances
Children who are born prematurely and those who needed ventilator support immediately after birth are at higher risk of asthma. Children who are significantly underweight at birth are also at higher risk,
4. Brochiolitis, eczema or allergy
People who have a history of bronchiolitis, allergy or eczema are at higher risk of asthma.
5. Regular exposure to cigarette smoke
Exposure to cigarette smoke, especially secondhand smoke, can increase the risk of asthma. People living in families in which one or more members smoke are at higher risk of asthma compared to others.
6. Hormonal changes in women
Women sometimes develop asthma just before or after menopause due to hormonal changes.
While the causes described above can make you prone to asthma, the actual asthma attack usually follows a triggering event. People with asthma have very sensitive airways that can easily become inflamed resulting in an attack. The circumstances or events that precipitate these attacks are called asthma triggers. Each patient has his or her own set of triggers. Circumstances that trigger an attack in one person may not cause any problem for another. Here are some common asthma triggers.
Airborne allergens like dust, dust mites, pollen, mold spores, pet dander, pest droppings and cockroach waste can trigger an asthma attack if you are sensitive to them. The solution is to minimize exposure by removing these contaminants from indoor air. This can be done with good quality air cleaners. Using vacuum cleaners and microfiber cloth to keep surfaces clean can also make a huge difference.
2. Airborne irritants
Some substances can cause irritation of the respiratory tract. This can happen for anyone, but for people with asthma, it can trigger an attack. Smoke from wood fires, barbecue grills, incense sticks and cigarettes can irritate the respiratory tract. Outdoor conditions like smog and the presence of ozone are also possible triggers. Strong odors like perfumes, room fresheners and scents from soaps or incense can also trigger asthma in some people. Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) are potent asthma triggers and they are often present in wood finishes, paint and other chemicals commonly used for home construction. The solution is to switch to safer alternatives.
3. Respiratory ailments
Cold and dry air can make it easier for infections like cold, flu, sore throats and sinusitis to take hold. These winter illnesses are often the most common asthma triggers. Children are more vulnerable than adults.
4. Physical exertion
Physical activity changes the breathing rate. In some people, this can cause the airways to constrict and trigger an attack. This is called exercise-induced asthma. Intense physical activity like jogging in cold weather is also known to trigger asthma attacks in many patients. The symptoms may not appear immediately during or after the activity.
5. Strong emotions
Common emotions like anger, fear and excitement can trigger asthma in some patients. Laughing loudly, shouting or crying can also trigger an attack. The change in breathing rate caused by strong emotions is the possible cause.
Some medicines like aspirin, anti-inflammatory drugs, painkillers and beta blockers may trigger asthma attacks. If a particular drug has triggered asthma in the past, inform your doctor or chemist so that it can be replaced with harmless alternatives.
7. Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD)
Conditions like acidity or acid reflux force stomach acid back up into the food pipe and throat. This causes irritation of the throat and airways and may trigger asthma attacks.
8. Food additives
Food additives such as preservatives, artificial colors and flavors added to foods may trigger asthma attacks. Processed foods that can be stored at room temperature, for example, canned foods, potatoes, shrimp and dried fruits, are more likely to contain preservatives. If you get an attack after consuming processed foods, try to identify the ingredient that could have caused the problem and avoid foods with that ingredient.
If you know what causes asthma in your case, you can do something about it. Asthma is a debilitating disease and causes a lot of distress, but it can be managed. The causes of asthma are often beyond your control, but you can definitely minimize asthma attacks. Learn to identify the conditions or chemicals that could be triggering your asthma attacks here https://business.facebook.com/EbenezerGreenHealthierHomes/. These chemicals are often right inside your home. Download this free guide to make your home green and healthier. Using environment-friendly products will prevent many asthma attacks.