William Berger (Allergist and Immunologist) gives expert video advice on: How do I prevent getting asthma?; What are the most common asthma triggers?; How do I prevent asthma triggers? and more...
What are the most common asthma triggers?
There are many triggers of asthma symptoms in patients who already have asthma and are trying to do their best to avoid those triggers. In very young children, up until the age of five, viral infections are the most common triggers of asthma symptoms, causing coughing, wheezing and shortness of breath. As you get older, allergies tend to really be a problem for asthma sufferers. Pollens such as grasses, trees and weeds, in addition to dust, dust mites, molds and animal danders, all trigger asthma. There are also non-allergic triggers, such as exercise, infections, such as sinus infections, and even heartburn, what we call reflux-Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease. These can all cause asthma symptoms. That's why it is important to not only get the diagnosis of asthma, and get the proper medication, but to properly identify your triggers, which can help prevent the occurrence and severity of asthma symptoms.
Why do I get asthma when I exercise?
Exercise is a very common trigger in patients with asthma, affecting 80 to 90 percent of patients with asthma. Certain physiologic changes occur when you exercise in patients who have asthma. Certain chemicals get released, certain neurologic mechanisms get stimulated which cause the release of certain chemicals that cause the mucous formation, the tightness in your chest, the feeling that you're getting short of breath. It usually occurs after you've stopped exercising. Usually the pattern is the patient has exercised for five to ten minutes and then they stop, and a few minutes after they stop, they feel some spasm or tightening in their airways. The best way to treat exercise-induced asthma is to pre-treat; in other words, take a short-acting bronchial dilator 15 to 20 minutes before you exercise. Very often, I'll tell patients, especially professional athletes, to warm up first to release some of these chemicals that cause spasm, then to use their inhaled bronchial dilator before they're going to actually have their meet or their competition. A lot of patients with exercise asthma have chronic asthma, but they're not aware of it because it's only when they exercise that they really feel the tightness. So in many cases, doing pulmonary function tests at rest that show that there might be some asthma affecting their lungs might necessitate using a controller medication on a regular basis and then using the rescue medication, in addition, prior to their exercise.