One of the challenges of HAE is figuring out what will trigger an attack. For me, I would say one of my triggers is stress, which I think is common among us HAE folks. It can be a huge event, like when I heard my grandpa passed away and, within half an hour, my face was swelling up. But, I can also have attacks from juggling the everyday demands of kids, school, work, dinner and the like.
I feel like, with this condition, I always feel a bit fatigued, no matter what. I do know that if I really get overtired that, too, can trigger an attack. Sometimes it’s just something I can’t predict or control, like when the weather changes drastically. Extreme temperature changes affect me, as well, and I know I cannot stay out in the sun for too long. I’ve learned that dental procedures are a common trigger for HAE folks, but I have been very fortunate not to have had any attacks from dental procedures—even when my wisdom teeth were pulled! Of course, that’s just my experience, and everyone is different!
I’ve also noticed certain activities can trigger an attack if I do them very long. If I am going to do some painting, I know that will cause my hands and arms to swell. Twisting a screwdriver for too long, cutting up vegetables and fruit for a long period of time, mopping, and shoveling snow are all examples of things known to cause an attack for me. So I know if I am doing any of these activities, I need to take breaks or not do them as long. If I sit on anything too hard, such as a bench or chair, I can swell up in minutes. Oftentimes, walking can cause my feet to swell, and I know I can’t wear high heels.
I have spoken with many other people living with HAE and, although we have a lot of similarities, there are also so many differences. It seems that pretty much anything and everything can be a possible trigger for someone. The most important thing is to be aware of what activities or events seem to happen around your own attacks. Write them down and talk to your family and friends, because they might notice or remember things that you won’t. Realizing what our triggers are and learning how to manage them are important steps in dealing with our HAE.