Patient Blogs | Asthma
Trigger Warning: My Top 5 Asthma Triggers
photo of beagle

I’m often triggered when talking about triggers, but there’s no avoiding them. When it comes to my asthma, it has served me well to become very familiar with the things that kick off some difficulty breathing.

Here are my top five triggers and what the heck I do about them.

Trigger No. 1: Smoke

This can be all kinds of smoke – from the wildfires in my area to leaving the oven on broil toast for too long. In general, for me, this mostly means cigarette smoke. I don’t want to be all "judgy" because if coffee was ever restricted in certain areas, I would lose it! However, I’m so glad that most indoor establishments are nonsmoking. It’s only when I accidentally step outside near a smoking area that I’m reminded of how sensitive I am to it. I’ve also had a tough time traveling to countries in Europe where smoking here, there, and everywhere is so in vogue. My poor lungs take a beating.

I’ve gotten around this by moving away from the source as much as possible. Or I’ll cover my nose and mouth with a scarf or napkin if I can’t easily move away. Recently, and because I tend to be hot-natured, I’ve used a mini fan to help discreetly blow the smoke away from my breathing path. Also, while wearing a mask may not always be comfortable, the pandemic has shown me how helpful it is for many things – including blocking someone else’s fun puffs from my nostrils.

Trigger No. 2: Fur babies

I love them – especially beagles! I can’t resist a quick pat or cuddle when I run into a cute pup at the park. I didn’t grow up with pets (unless you count one elementary school guinea pig and one college fish), so I’ve tried to make up for it as an adult. Although I should, I haven’t paid much attention to how and why pet dander impacts my asthma or the breeds that may be less friendly. So far, there are only two categories: Those that make me sneeze once and those that make me sneeze twice!

During the 12 years that I had my precious beagle boy, I noticed an increase in allergy symptoms, which as a result increased my asthma issues. I didn’t let him sleep in the bed or climb up on furniture (that much) and I was obsessive about sweeping and vacuuming. Still, I paid the price for paws. As I contemplate a second dog-child, I do have to factor in how much having another pet might impact my breathing. The alternative is to volunteer at a shelter or to pet sit for my fix.

Trigger No. 3: Dancing like no one is watching

I’ve loved dancing since I was a little girl, and I’m told I’m good at it. It’s great exercise and a great stress reliever. Add to that a love for all types of music and dancing is my happy place. Unfortunately, dancing in a hot room or any type of vigorous exercise can kick-start some wheezing for me. It’s so unfair at times. I could see if I were an introvert or professional wallflower, but I’m kind of the life of the party! There’s been more than one occasion where I’ve gone from dancing one minute to wheezing in the bathroom the next. Party pooped. I’ve found relief by taking a puff of my inhaler before an intense workout, which could also include a robust cupid shuffle.

Trigger No. 4: Cleaning supplies

If you gave me $10, I’d use it for coffee, a cute office supply, or some type of new scented household cleaner. Weird, I know. I enjoy cleaning. It’s a stress reliever to me and it’s often something I have to do before I’ll allow myself to relax. I get it from both my parents – the oldest of large families with healthy doses of type A personality. I took the whole ‘cleanliness is next to godliness’ thing seriously. Do you mean I could wipe my way to angel wings? Well, let’s go! Unfortunately, the harsh chemicals and smells haven’t been so saintly to my lungs. I didn’t always make the connection between a cleaning spree and some difficulty breathing shortly afterward. The whole reason I was cleaning was probably to ensure a dust-free, mite-free breathing space. These days, I use nontoxic cleaners as much as possible. I love my subscription to The Grove Company. I crack a window or two when I’m cleaning, and I will often wear a mask as well.

Trigger No. 5: Stress

If I had a dime for every time I learned the connection between stress and health issues, I’d have IG influencer money. I’ve paid so much attention to what I’m breathing that I haven’t paused to think about how I’m breathing. If I’m angry, overwhelmed, anxious, or sad, I now notice my breaths get more shallow. There’s a reason why people tell you to “take a breath” when you’re feeling stressed. It works! I still have a ways to go, but I’ve been trying to focus more on deep breathing throughout the day. When I’m consistent with yoga, I also notice an improvement in my breathing.

Know your triggers and know how to fight them!




Photo Credit: Boris Zhitkov / Moment via Getty Images

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Michele Jordan

Michele Jordan

Diagnosed since 2005

Michele Jordan, a Los Angeles-based freelance writer, was diagnosed with asthma in 2005. Her writing background includes magazine and online journalism, grant writing, and now screenwriting. She is passionate about both physical and mental health and is the author of the book Thanking Your Way to Joy: Daily Gratitude Journal. When not writing, Michele enjoys traveling with her husband, trying new, healthy recipes, and cuddling beagles. Her latest passion includes exploring and discussing issues around equity in housing, health care, and the justice system.

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