When you have asthma, your body overreacts to certain substances or situations and produces inflammation in your lungs and airways. The inflammation causes the symptoms of asthma, such as coughing, wheezing, chest tightness, and difficulty breathing.
The things that your body is extra sensitive to are called "triggers." There are many different types of triggers for asthma and allergies, which is a closely-related health condition. Triggers can be different for each person, but in general, they include:
- Indoor triggers such as dust, pet dander, and mold
- Outdoor triggers such as pollen and mold
- Irritants such as tobacco smoke and strong fumes
- Other triggers such as stress and intense temperature changes
You may be sensitive to any or all of these kinds of triggers. One of the most important factors in asthma management and control is avoiding your triggers, once you pinpoint what they are. If you do that successfully, you may need less medicine. You will certainly enjoy fewer symptoms and less frequent asthma attacks.
Since it's spring, let's focus on outdoor asthma triggers. Pollen is probably the most common outdoor trigger. Pollens are the tiny, egg-shaped particles from flowering plants, including certain trees, grasses, and weeds. Pollen travels through the air, either carried by bees and other insects, or on the wind.
Mold is another outdoor trigger. Mold is a tiny fungus, sort of like a mushroom without leaves or stems, that can only be seen under a microscope. Mold spores float in the air like pollen. They can grow all year, but tend to be present in largest numbers during the hottest, wettest times of the year.
Here are a few ways to avoid outdoor asthma triggers:
- Keep windows closed at night. This helps to prevent the pollens or molds from drifting inside. If you need to, use air conditioning to clean, cool, and dry the air.
- Stay indoors in the early morning hours. That is when pollen and mold counts are highest, especially on dry, windy days.
- Keep your car windows closed when traveling, to prevent pollen and molds from getting inside.
- Keep track of pollen and mold counts for your area, and stay indoors when the counts are high.
- Plan summer vacations at the beach or sea, where pollen counts tend to be lower.
- Take all of the medicines your doctor prescribes for your asthma, exactly as directed.
- Try not to mow lawns or go near a freshly-mowed lawn.
- Avoid walking on or through piles of fallen leaves.
- Use a clothes drier as an alternative to hanging clothes out to dry, where they can collect pollens and mold.
- "Grow" artificial plants in your living space, because the soil for live plants can harbor molds.
Published On: March 29, 2007