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25 'Ridiculous Triggers' That Can Cause a Chronic Illness Flare

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Most people wouldn’t be too surprised to hear that things like exercise or certain foods can set off a symptom flare when you have a chronic illness. But as any chronic illness warrior knows, there is a whole range of somewhat ridiculous things that can set off symptoms that you wouldn’t think could have such an impact.

Mighty user trulyhadleydeeply posted a question to the community about her own “ridiculous” triggers:

ridiculous restrictions question on the mighty

The question got some fascinating answers, from beef gravy to crying to sunglasses (read them all here), and we wanted to hear what more of you thought. So we asked our Mighty chronic illness community on Facebook to share the “ridiculous” triggers they experience. Be sure to leave a comment with your own random, bizarre or unexpected triggers you experience. If you find yourself avoiding some seemingly “safe” things because they might trigger your symptoms, you’re not alone!

  1. “Wrapping presents. My horrible back can manage some pretty large objects, but doing things leaning forwards has me in worse pain every time.” — Gabbie J.
  2. “Sleeping on a bed that is either too hard or too soft. It took me so long to find a mattress! I kept returning them, trying them for embarrassingly long times in store. Too soft, not enough support, too hard hits pain points. Gotta find a semi firm.” — Bailey S.
  3. “Grocery stores! I don’t know if it’s the combination of lights and people and food or what but it always gives me the worst anxiety and usually leads to a panic attack. My blood pressure gets so wonky I usually black out or get really dizzy. I just shop online now, much better.” — Jessica R.
  4. “Laughter. I love standup and laughter but avoid it now. My friends often say ‘It’s not a party until Tina has a migraine.’” — Tina L.
  5. “Walking past a window in my house and a car being driven down the road outside in the opposite direction to the one I’m walking in. Someone across the road opening their window and the sunlight bouncing off it. A sudden and unexpected shadow or reflection. Opening a door. I have a balance condition and these things can give me an attack of vertigo and cause me to stumble or fall.” — Jo I.
  6. “Taking a shower, but more specifically washing my hair. It’s awful, I get out of the shower in so much pain. I definitely have to have a chair.” — Alice J.
  7. “Sneezing! My body goes nuts when I sneeze.” — Ash L.
  8. “Yoga — the really simple, basically nothing but small stretch, gentle kind even sets off a huge migraine. I can handle some other exercises like swimming and biking, but yoga kills me.” — Beth H.
  9. “Rough clothing, everything in our house from blankets, clothes, towels, pillows, anything that is cloth has to be super soft for me. I’ve even changed the furniture in the house.” — Kathy L.
  10. “Wind triggers my facial nerve pain (called trigeminal neuralgia). It’s hard for me to go outside unless I have a scarf on.” — Jessica H.
  11. “When one of my other pain disorders is affecting me, my fibromyalgia flares. It’s like a jealous teenager who can’t stand not be the center of attention.” — Diedre B.
  12. “It seems bizarre to me, and impossible to explain to others that overstimulation, such as crowds, bright lights, loud noises, strong smells, being too hot or too cold, can start a cascade of painful chain reactions that go throughout my whole body through the central nervous system.” — Sheila B.
  13. “Weather. Goes up or down more than 5 degrees it can be really painful and I swell. Also barometric pressure changes, rain… it all causes problems. Even too much sun — I cannot use my pool until after 3 to 4 p.m. in the summer or I have major problems.” — Chailine M.
  14. “My own heartbeat. If it’s even slightly off — palpitations, slightly sped up, etc. — I have a panic attack. The panic attack then pushes me into a fibro flare that lasts for days!” — Rachel R.
  15. “Perfume/fragrances! Out of all of my triggers, this is the hardest one to avoid. Sometimes I don’t even consciously realize I’m breathing in something scented, but I’ll get a headache, fibromyalgia flare, worsened POTS symptoms, skin rashes, blurred vision, and heartburn. Then I’ll pay attention and realize I’m near something with mild fragrance. I’m so hyper-reactive!” — Sarah L.
  16. “Repetitive noises… like banging on the walls or songs that repeat the same damn sound over and over. It drives me insane! Then it gives me major migraines that last for five days at time and make my entire body oversensitive to touch, to my clothes, to my sheets, to everything. It’s ridiculous.” — Rosa V.
  17. “Cutlery and doorknobs! I’m allergic to nickel and cobalt but never thought about the small things. My hands were always flaming red and swollen and the end of the day and I noticed my hands would start to tingle during dinner. We now have plastic cutlery and rubber coated doorknobs and my hands are so much better. Still looking for an alternative for taps and showers though.” — Iris S.
  18. “Seeing my husband shaking/stomping his legs in the corner of my eye triggers a migraine… It makes no sense, but it happens every single time. Anytime anything moves repeatedly like that in my eyesight when everything else is still, it triggers a migraine. So annoying.” — Shawna D.
  19. “Pumping gas. It always catches me off guard because you don’t realize how much dexterity it takes until your hands are affected by RA. I can be fine when I pull up and flaring for hours after just putting $15 in my tank.” — Jessica K.
  20. “Pulling on things. Any movement that requires me to pull (i.e., opening doors, pulling out a drawer, moving my garbage can, etc.) will send me into a flare. The microwave door is my biggest enemy. It kills me.” — Meghan B.
  21. “The smell of coffee gives me a migraine and makes feel really nauseous. There is a lady in our office that makes a French press a couple of times a week that makes me feel grotty, I don’t even know her but because of the smell and symptoms I dislike her immensely. I know it’s irrational!” — Vikki J.
  22. “Sunlight. It’s like something stabbing me in the eyeballs, and then all the other symptoms join in, Ugh.” — Erica R.
  23. “Talking. This is a new one. I was talking with my sister the other day it triggered a TMJ-like head neck pain like the worse toothache ever. Just a new symptom in this thing I call my life.” — Nikki M.
  24. “If a butterfly or grasshopper flies into me, hitting my hands or arms, it feels like being punched. Not much to do about it but say ‘ow’ and laugh a bit at the ridiculousness.” — Sally F.
  25. “Rosé causes such bad pain in my feet! Alcohol doesn’t often trigger pain but rosé does but it’s only ever in my feet as opposed to everywhere like my regular fibromyalgia pain!” — Nae W.
Originally published: November 2, 2018
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