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What Triggers Asthma and Why It Gets Worse at Night?

Mar 01, 2023

Primary Care

What Triggers Asthma and Why It Gets Worse at Night?

Asthma is a chronic respiratory condition that causes your airways to swell and produce extra mucus, resulting in shortness of breath, wheezing, coughing, etc. According to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, asthma affects around 25 million individuals in the United States. This equates to around one in every thirteen persons. Among the affected persons, around 20 million are ages 18 and older, and require proper asthma management.

If you have asthma, you may notice that your symptoms may get worse at night. Do you know why? Let us discuss this.

What Are Asthma Triggers?

Asthma patients have swollen airways that may be sensitive to certain things from air pollution to respiratory infections and outside irritants. These are called triggers, which can vary from person to person depending on their overall health and the severity of their asthma.

5 Things That Trigger Asthma and How to Prevent Triggers-Related Flare-Ups

1. Viral Infections

Seasonal respiratory viruses causing cold and airway inflammation can flare up asthma symptoms, which include rhinovirus, RSV (Respiratory syncytial virus), and Parainfluenza virus.

Preventative Measure

If you or your child have cold and asthma symptoms together, experience difficulty breathing, wheezing, coughing, or are using the rescue inhaler often, these are signs of the need for medical intervention to avoid complications.

2. Exercise

Your asthma symptoms can be very intense after 5-20 minutes of exercising, requiring a rescue inhaler or rest for relief.

Preventative Measure

Use a rescue inhaler before 20-30 minutes of exercising to prevent exercise-induced asthma attacks.

3. Allergens

If you are exposed to or inhale allergic substances, you will experience asthma flare-ups. Common indoor and outdoor allergens that trigger asthma are:

  • Pet dander
  • Rodents
  • Dust mites
  • Pollens in grass, weeds, and trees
  • Cockroaches
  • Molds

Preventative Measure

Reduce your exposure to these allergens by using allergy-proof covers on bedding, wearing a mask while going out, washing your bedding every week to minimize dust mites, and using dehumidifiers to reduce indoor mold growth.

4. Cold Air and Changing Weather

Cold and dry air can irritate your lungs, causing inflammation that flares up your asthma symptoms. Changing weather can also cause airway spasms that worsen asthma symptoms.

Preventative Measure

Avoid going out when it is cold or take your regular inhaler or a preventative dose of your asthma medication before going out.

5. Stress

Stress and anxiety after the death of a family member or some other difficult or life-changing event can increase airway inflammation, triggering asthma symptoms.

Preventative Measure

Practice relaxation activities (yoga, meditation, etc.) or visit your healthcare provider if you need medical assistance to manage your stress and anxiety.

Why Do Asthma Symptoms Get Worse at Night?

Asthma that flares up at night is medically referred to as nocturnal (nighttime) asthma. Here are some reasons for nocturnal asthma:

  • Dust mites on your bedding, pillows, or blankets
  • Changes in lung function (lung function decreases at night)
  • Sleeping on your back or side can put pressure on your lungs, causing breathing difficulty
  • Medication side effects
  • Cold or hot air
  • Symptoms that are not controlled during the day don’t improve at night

What to Do for a Severe Asthma Attack?

If you have a severe asthma attack, use your rescue inhaler to open up your airways.

Go to the ER if your rescue inhaler doesn’t improve your symptoms or if you have worsening symptoms, such as:

  • Chest pain or pressure
  • Bluish fingernails and lips (in light-skinned people) or gray/whitish lips and gums (in dark-skinned people)
  • Rapid breathing
  • Persistent coughing or wheezing
  • Pale and sweaty face
  • Difficulty communicating

Asthma Treatment Options

Depending on your asthma symptoms and severity, treatment may include:

  • Bronchodilators – To relax airway muscles and let mucus move easily through them.
  • Anti-Inflammatory Medicines – To reduce swelling and mucus formation in the airways.
  • Biologic Therapy – To treat severe asthma.
  • Allergy Medications – To treat allergy-induced asthma.
  • Quick-Relief Medications – Include oral and IV corticosteroids, short-acting beta-agonists, and anticholinergic agents to treat short-term flare-ups.
  • Longer-Acting Medications – Include inhaled corticosteroids, combination inhalers, theophylline, and leukotriene modifiers to keep asthma under control.

While some people have mild symptoms after being exposed to triggers, some may develop serious complications that impact their routine activities and quality of life. That is why it is crucial to track your asthma triggers to reduce your exposure to them, preventing asthma episodes.

Visit MI Express Primary Care for Quick Relief from Asthma Flare-Ups

Whether you have mild or moderate asthma symptoms, walk into MI Express Primary Care in Canton, MI, for prompt diagnosis and treatment. Our urgent care providers can recommend the best treatment regimen for quick relief. Schedule an appointment with us today!

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