Hi, my name is Grace and I am a Nurse Educator at Asthma NZ.
An important part of my job is finding out my patient’s asthma triggers and coming up with strategies to try mange them.
I thought I would go through some common question I get when I’m out in the community.
What is a Trigger?
An asthma trigger is anything that can set off your asthma symptoms. Triggers can make your airways more inflamed and can cause asthma attacks. A few things happen when you come into contact with a trigger:
- Muscles around the airways tighten.
- The lining of the airways become swollen and inflamed.
- Sticky mucus (or snot!) can build up in the airways.
This is why we see symptoms such as cough, shortness or breath, chest tightness and wheeze.
Why are triggers important?
Understanding your triggers is important so you can try avoid or reduce contact with them, making your asthma easier to manage.
Are there different types of triggers?
Yes there are. Generally, we can split them into two groups. Atopic (allergic) and non-atopic (non-allergic).
Atopic (allergic) triggers are very common and lots of people with asthma will be able to relate to these! Some examples when outside would be, pollens and grasses. When inside, some allergens may be dust mites, animals, cockroaches, mould and food.
Bonus Fact: Allergic triggers are generally genetic, meaning someone else in your family is likely to have allergies too (although these may be different from your allergies) whereas non-allergic generally are not genetic.
Non-atopic (non-allergic) triggers are generally not related to an allergy trigger and often develop later in life. Some examples include medications, changes in temperature, viral infections, fumes and smoke, exercise and emotions.
If it is not obvious what my triggers are, how can I figure this out?
Great question! We would recommend a visit with one of our Asthma Nurses so you can have a chat about what your experiencing and they may be able to help you figure it out based on the history you recall.
Alternatively, we often recommend using a symptom diary, to see if there is any pattern on when your asthma is particularly worse or better. Also, a skin prick test via your local doctor may be helpful to confirm any suspected allergies.
You can read more about Asthma Triggers here >