Asthma symptoms may be triggered by exposure to an allergen (such as ragweed, pollen, animal dander or dust mites), irritants in the air (such as smoke, chemical fumes or strong odors) or extreme weather conditions. Exercise or an illness — particularly a respiratory illness or the flu — can also make you more susceptible.
A physical display of strong emotion that affects normal breathing patterns — such as shouting, crying or laughing — can also act as an asthma trigger. Panic can prevent a person with asthma from relaxing and following instructions, which is essential during an asthma attack. Scientists have found that rapid breathing associated with strong emotions can cause bronchial tubes to constrict, possibly provoking or worsening an attack.
Asthma symptoms can appear at any time. Mild episodes may last only a few minutes and may be resolved spontaneously or with medication; more severe episodes can last from hours to days.
People with asthma, like those with any chronic condition, may experience significant stress. Because it is a leading cause of work and school absences, asthma can affect a person’s livelihood, education and emotional well-being. Depression may set in when people diagnosed with asthma believe that they are unable to participate in normal activities.
If you’re experiencing breathing difficulties that interfere with your daily activities and decrease the quality of your life, visit an asthma screening event in your area and see an allergist for diagnosis and treatment. An allergist can also help you recognize the early warning signs of an attack and coach you in ways to cope during an emergency.