"Trigger" is a funny word for something that makes your asthma worse.
For example, petting your aunt's cat or playing outside after the grass is cut are things that might "trigger" your asthma symptoms. You might get an asthma flare-up (or "attack"), which can make you cough, wheeze, or have trouble breathing.
People with asthma have different triggers. Some people have one or two, while others have a bunch. Triggers may change from winter to summer.
Your doctor will help you figure out your asthma triggers. Common triggers are:
To find out your triggers, the doctor may suggest that you keep an asthma diary for a couple of weeks. This means you or an adult will write down when and where you have symptoms and flare-ups. You also may see a special doctor called an allergist (say: AL-ur-jist), who can figure out if you have any allergies that might be causing your symptoms.
Learning about your triggers is one part of your asthma action plan that your doctor will help you write down. This plan will look at all the things you need to do to manage your asthma, including how to avoid or handle your triggers.
You can't keep away from all triggers all the time. But avoiding them as much as possible can help prevent flare-ups.
Allergens are a very common trigger. They include:
You won't be able to stay away from all allergens, but you can:
If your asthma symptoms are triggered by allergies, you might also need to take allergy medicine or have allergy shots. Your doctor will let you know.
Triggers in the air — also called irritants or pollutants (say: puh-LEW-tunts) — can bother people who don't have allergies or asthma too. Irritants aren't a serious problem for them, but for people with asthma, they can lead to flare-ups.
Common irritants include perfumes and aerosol (say: AIR-uh-sol) sprays, such as hair spray and cleaners. Other irritants include wood and tobacco smoke, the smell given off by paint or gas, and air pollution.
If you notice that an irritant triggers your asthma, let an adult know, so he or she can keep it away from you. This might mean switching to different cleaning products, for instance. If smoke bothers you, avoid fires in the fireplace or woodstove. And of course, no one should smoke cigarettes or other tobacco products around you.
If outdoor air pollution is a problem, running the air conditioner or an air cleaner can help. Having an adult check air quality reports on the news is a good idea. On days when the quality is bad, you might want to stay indoors.
Certain types of weather can cause your asthma to act up, such as:
If you know that some weather conditions make your asthma worse, you or your parent should keep an eye on the forecast — on some days, you may need to spend less time outdoors. If cold weather is the problem, you'll want to wear a scarf that will cover your nose and mouth when you go outside.
Colds and the flu can be hard to avoid. But you can help protect yourself by washing your hands regularly and staying away from people who are sick. Getting a flu shot each year is recommended for all kids, but is especially important for kids with asthma.
Exercise like running or playing a sport is another common trigger. But this is one trigger that you shouldn't avoid because exercise is important for your health.
Your doctor will want you to be active, so talk with him or her about what to do before playing sports. For instance, you might need to take medicine 10 or 15 minutes before you exercise or play sports. And, of course, you'll want to have your quick-relief medicine (also called rescue or fast-acting medicine) with you all the time.
Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.
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