Managing Exposure to Asthma “Triggers” Can Prevent or Reduce Attacks
NASHVILLE – Asthma: if you don’t have it, you probably know someone who does. In Tennessee, approximately six percent of adults and nine percent of children have asthma. The chronic disease that narrows and inflames airways of the lungs can quickly cause breathing to become difficult. While many people find relief with small inhaler devices, the Tennessee Department of Health recommends increased awareness about “triggers” to reduce onset of attacks.
“Triggers vary from person to person and can include a variety of irritants, allergens or conditions,” said TDH Commissioner John Dreyzehner, MD, MPH. “What we eat and drink or inhale, along with weather, stress, exercise, colds and even pets can trigger an asthma attack. All people with asthma should discuss triggers with their medical providers as some may change over time.”
Asthma is a serious condition. In 2010 in Tennessee:
- There were 37,462 emergency visits to doctors for a primary diagnosis of asthma and 7,059 inpatient hospitalizations for a primary diagnosis of asthma.
- A total of 66 people died due to an underlying diagnosis of asthma and there were 174 deaths for which asthma was listed among the causes of death.
- Hospital charges for primary asthma totaled nearly $179 million, with $65.2 million for outpatient hospital visits.
People who suffer from asthma may have a difficult time identifying their triggers. Many clinicians suggest patients keep a written journal of what they were doing, consuming or near before their last asthma attack occurred. Some things to note include tracking what you eat and drink; items that trigger attacks for some may include beer, wine, shrimp, dried fruit and processed potatoes. Note what and how much you consumed and the time after consumption when your attack began. Other advice for preventing attacks includes:
- Avoid tobacco smoke.
- Change your home air system filters regularly and use those that screen fine particulates.
- Control dust mites by dusting and using a vacuum with a HEPA, or high-efficiency particulate arresting, filter. Additional tactics to remove dust mites include using dust-proof covers on pillows and mattress; washing blankets and sheets with hot water; and keeping stuffed toys out of the bed.
- Keep windows closed near mid-day when many pollen and mold spore counts are highest. Air conditioning can be helpful in reducing the severity of asthma symptoms.
- If you take asthma medications, ask your medical provider if modifications are necessary during seasonal changes.
- The dried droppings of some insects, particularly cockroaches, can cause an attack. Use traps to eliminate cockroaches in your home. If you spray an insecticide, stay out of the room until the odor leaves. Read labels to learn if an insecticide may be harmful to pets.
- Keep food in sealed containers and remove garbage promptly. Never bring food into your bedroom.
- Eliminate indoor mold by cleaning surfaces with bleach solution, replacing moldy shower curtains, opening shades to allow sunlight to enter rooms and reducing humidity by using a dehumidifier.
- Bathing a dog or cat weekly may cut down on the dander it produces. Don’t allow pets into your bedroom, vacuum regularly and when your pet comes inside, use a damp cloth to remove allergens it may have collected on its fur or feet.
- Sulfite preservatives in dried fruit and wine and scented ingredients in some perfumes, chemicals and other items should be avoided by sensitive people.
For additional information about asthma, visit the Tennessee Department of Health website at http://health.tn.gov/MCH/asthma.shtml or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention at www.cdc.gov/asthma/.
The mission of the Tennessee Department of Health is to protect, promote and improve the health and prosperity of people in Tennessee. For more information about TDH services and programs, visit http://health.state.tn.us/.