A trigger factor or trigger for short, is something that causes the signs and symptoms of a medical condition to begin in a person who already has that medical condition. Common triggers for asthma are:
- Tobacco smoke: a person does not need to smoke themselves, second-hand smoke can trigger an asthma attack. Second-hand smoke is the smoke from the end of a burning cigarette, cigar or pipe that someone else is smoking, or the smoke that they breathe out (exhale).
- Pets: animals give off chemicals called proteins which are allergens; people can be allergic to them. These allergens can act asirritants and make someone’s asthma worse and trigger an asthma attack. The proteins are in the pet’s dander which is the dead flakes of skin that animals (and people) shed. They are also in their urine, feces, saliva, and sebum which is made by glands in the skin called sebaceous glands. Sebum is what makes hair and skin oily. When dander, urine, feces, saliva, and sebum dry out their proteins can become airborne and breathed in. Some of the types of pets people can be allergic to are, dogs, cats, gerbils, hamsters, guinea pigs and pet birds.
- Bugs: different types of bugs which may be found inside homes may trigger asthma attacks. They may trigger asthma symptoms in the same way as pets; the proteins they give off are allergens and become airborne. Some of the more common bugs which may trigger asthma are dust mites, cockroaches and also bedbugs and fleas. Many other species that may infest a home may serve as a source of allegens such as Pharaoh ants.
- Fungus spores (mold): fungus reproduce by releasing spores into the air, if the spores land in a good place form them to grow then a new fungus starts. Breathing in these spores can trigger asthma. One of the most common types of fungus spores found in both outside and outside environments are from a group (genus) known as aspergillus.
- Strong emotions such as anger, stress and even laughter may worsen asthma symptoms.
- Outdoor air pollution can come from many sources such as car and truck fumes in areas of heavy traffic and chemicals in the air near factories and refineries.
- Weather: changes in the weather can trigger an asthma attack. Changes in air temperature can trigger an attack not just cold air. If a person goes from being outside in the cold into a warm house the sudden change can cause a broncospasm. Sudden changes in humidity also plays a part.
The best way to deal with asthma triggers is to learn what they are and avoid them if possible, and if not totally avoidable then adjust one’s behavior to deal with them. Example: running on a cold winter day right up to the doorstep of a warm house and going immediately inside; the sudden temperature change can cause an attack and could have been avoided. In general but especially with a medical condition such as asthma it is necessary to be aware of one’s environment and what’s in it, both indoors and outdoors.