Identifying Potential Triggers

It’s important to become familiar with your hereditary angioedema (HAE) triggers so you can be prepared if an attack occurs.

Recognize your triggers

Although attacks of HAE are often unpredictable, some potential triggers have been identified:

  • Emotional or psychological stress
  • Physical stress (e.g., an injury, surgery, giving birth, or even dental procedures)
  • Physiologic stress (e.g., viral or bacterial infections, including Helicobacter pylori, which also causes stomach ulcers)

Be aware of events, changes in medications, or situations that may precede or trigger an HAE attack:

  • Keep a journal of the location and frequency of your attacks, including their duration.
  • Be aware of patterns that may occur (such as emotional triggers, medication changes, and, if you’re a young woman, the timing in relation to your menstrual cycle (if you have menstrual cycles)).
  • Record any physical warning signs or symptoms (such as tingling, fatigue, nausea, flu-like symptoms, feelings of warmth, or rash), which can be the early signs of some attacks. Early recognition can lead to early treatment and may help thwart a full-blown attack.
  • Medications, such as Angiotensin converting enzyme or commonly called ACE inhibitors (for high blood pressure and heart disease) or oral contraceptives.
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Avoid triggers

Avoid situations that may spark an attack. And talk to your doctor before exposure to any known triggers, such as dental work, surgery, or giving birth.

  • For women, do not use contraceptives that contain estrogen.
  • If emotional stress is a trigger, avoid highly charged situations. Enlist the help and support of others when overwhelmed, and use coping strategies that work for you.
  • Plan in advance for circumstances that may prompt an HAE event, and be prepared.

If you have HAE, avoid or minimize your exposure to these triggers as much as possible. Talk to your doctor if you are having frequent attacks or know that you will be exposed to a potential trigger, for example, before a dental procedure.

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Be prepared for an attack

For many people with HAE, an attack is not preventable. In that case, the best policy is to be prepared:

  • Educate family, loved ones, and coworkers about your condition.
  • Before you travel, locate a nearby treatment center. Discuss your medical condition and dental work options with both your HAE specialist and your dentist, especially if you are considering extractions or other dental work.
  • Carry an emergency patient information card that communicates your medical needs — in the event that you’re unable to relate important medical information. This card should:
    • Identify your condition
    • Include your diagnosis
    • Provide family emergency names and numbers
    • Supply your doctor’s emergency contact information
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Avoid trigger medications

Pay careful attention to patterns of attacks and identify any medications (such as contraceptives, hormone replacement therapy, or ACE inhibitors) that may contribute to the onset of your HAE attacks. Your physician can counsel you in the use of such medications and, in some cases, steer you to alternative therapies.

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Treating acute attacks

In Canada, there is one option for treating an acute attack of HAE. Find out more.

Tools and resources

Find additional information on HAE, explore your family tree, or find the meanings of terms used to explain the causes, symptoms, treatment, or management of HAE. Use our HAE tools and resources.