Stay away from asthma triggers
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It is important to know what things make your asthma worse. These are called asthma "triggers." Avoiding them is your first step toward feeling better.
Our homes can be filled with asthma triggers. Some of these are in the air we breathe, some are in our furniture and carpets, and some are on our pets.
Stay Away from Smoking
If you smoke, ask your doctor or nurse to help you quit. No one should smoke in your house. This includes you, your visitors, your child’s babysitters, and anyone else who comes to your house.
Smokers should smoke outside and wear a coat. The coat will keep smoke particles from sticking to their clothes. They should leave the coat outside, or away from the child.
Ask people who work at your child’s day care, preschool, school, and anyone else who takes care of your child, if they smoke. If they do, make sure they smoke away from your child. Stay away from restaurants and bars that allow smoking. Or, ask for a table as far away from smokers as possible.
When pollen levels are high:
- Stay indoors and keep doors and windows closed. Use an air conditioner if you have one.
- Save outside activities for late afternoon or after a heavy rain.
- Wear a face mask while you are doing outdoor activities.
- Do not dry clothes outdoors. Pollen will stick to them. Have someone who does not have asthma cut the grass, or wear a face mask if you must do it.
You can take several steps to limit exposure to dust mites.
- Wrap mattresses, box springs, and pillows with mite-proof covers.
- Wash bedding and pillows once a week in hot water (130° F to 140° F).
- If you can, get rid of upholstered furniture. Try to use wooden, leather, or vinyl.
- Keep indoor air dry. Try to keep the humidity level lower than 50%.
- Wipe dust with a damp cloth and vacuum once a week. Use a vacuum cleaner with a HEPA filter.
- Replace wall-to-wall carpet with wood or other hard flooring.
- Keep stuffed toys off the beds, and wash them weekly.
- Replace slatted blinds and cloth draperies with pull-down shades. They will not collect as much dust.
- Keep closets clean, and keep closet doors closed.
Keeping indoor humidity at less than 50% will keep mold spores down. Keep sinks and tubs dry and clean, and fix leaky pipes. Empty and wash the refrigerator tray that collects water from the freezer defroster often.
Use an exhaust fan in the bathroom when you are showering. Do not let damp clothes sit in a basket or hamper.
Clean or replace shower curtains when you see mold on them. Check your basement for moisture and mold. Use a dehumidifier to keep the air dryer.
You can do a lot to eliminate exposure to mold inside and outside of your home.
Pets Can Make Asthma Worse
Keep pets outside, if possible. If pets stay inside, keep them:
- Out of bedrooms
- Off upholstered furniture
- Off of carpets
Wash your pet once a week.
If you have a central air conditioning system, use a HEPA filter to remove pet allergens from indoor air. Use a vacuum cleaner with HEPA filters.
Wash your hands and change your clothes after playing with your pet.
Cockroaches and Rodents
Keep kitchen counters clean and free of food crumbs. Do not leave dirty dishes in the sink. Keep food in closed containers.
Do not let trash pile up inside. This includes bags, newspapers, and cardboard boxes.
Use roach traps. Wear a dust mask and gloves if you touch or are near rodents.
Other Triggers to Watch out for
Do not use wood-burning fireplaces. If you need to burn wood, use an air-tight wood-burning stove.
Do not use perfumes or scented cleaning sprays. Use trigger sprays instead of aerosols.
Laumbach RJ. Outdoor air pollutants and patient health. Am Fam Physician. 2010 Jan 15;81(2):175-80.
National Asthma Education and Prevention Program Expert Panel Report 3: Guidelines for the Diagnosis and Management of Asthma. Rockville, MD. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, US Dept of Health and Human Services; 2007. NIH publications 08-4051.
- Last reviewed on 5/16/2012
- Neil K. Kaneshiro, MD, MHA, Clinical Assistant Professor of Pediatrics, University of Washington School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc.
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This page was last updated: May 20, 2014