Avoiding Asthma Triggers

Asthma Management

​Avoiding Asthma Triggers

Many things can trigger an asthma episode, including upper respiratory infections, allergies, exercise, smoke, weather changes and more. Here is a list of things you can do to help limit your exposure to common triggers of asthma:

  • Air conditioners. Window units or central air-conditioning is ideal. Change or clean all filters every month. Windows should be kept closed, especially in the summer.

  • Animal dander. Pets that have fur or feathers often cause allergy troubles. If you are allergic to animal dander (the "skin" of the animal), it is best not to have pets. If you must have a pet with fur or feathers, you should keep the pet out of the bedrooms at all times, and you should wash the pet once a week. It is also best not to visit homes with pets that have fur or feathers. If you do, you should take asthma-control medicine before your visit.

  • Mold and mildew. Mold and mildew grow in areas that are dark, humid or have poor ventilation. To prevent this, you should:

    • Avoid damp, shady areas outside, and remove fallen leaves from the yard.

    • Always use the exhaust fans when cooking or bathing. If you do see mold and/or mildew, clean the area with cleansers made with bleach.

    • Avoid the use of humidifiers as mold and dust mites grow best in high humidity. Use a dehumidifier to keep humidity in the home between 25 and 50 percent.

  • Pollens. In many areas, pollens can be a problem from February through November each year. If you are allergic to pollen, it is important that you keep all car and house windows closed and use the air-conditioning during pollen season. You should also:

    • Consider staying indoors in the middle of the day when pollen counts are highest. If you must be outside, you should wash your hair before going to bed.

    • Avoid cutting the grass, or handling wet leaves or garden debris. If you must do these activities, you should use a HEPA filter facemask respirator.

    • Avoid drying clothes outside, as they can easily trap polles.

  • Dust mites. Dust mites are tiny, insect-like creatures that can be found in mattresses, carpets and upholstered furniture. They thrive in warm, humid conditions and feed on the shed scales of human skin. The best way to prevent allergy symptoms caused by dust mites is to limit your exposure. Be sure to pay special attention to the bedroom, where dust mites are common.

  • Beds and bedding. Every bed in your house should have a wooden or metal frame. Do not sleep or lay on upholstered furniture. If you have a child who has asthma and sleeps in a bunk bed, he or she should sleep on the top bunk. Additionally, you should avoid wool or down blankets. Wash all bedding (sheets, pillowcases, blankets) in hot water weekly. Cold water will not kill the dust mites. Dry all clothes and bedding in the dryer.

  • Mattresses, box springs and pillows. Place all mattresses, box springs and pillows in a zippered, dust-proof cover, and tape over the zippers with electrical or duct tape. Pillows should be made of Dacron or other synthetic fiber. Do not use foam, feather or down pillows.

  • Floor coverings. If possible, remove wall-to-wall carpeting, and replace it with wood, tile, or vinyl flooring. If you’re not able to remove carpeting, another member of your family who does not have asthma should vacuum the carpet frequently (at least once a week). If you must vacuum, you should do one of the following:

    • Use a dust mask

    • Use a central vacuum cleaner with a collecting bag located outside your home

    • Use a vacuum clean that has a HEPA filter, which should be changed regularly

  • Furniture. Remove all upholstered furniture and replace with wooden or plastic furniture. Avoid open bookshelves, as they are great dust catchers. Wooden, plastic or leather furniture should be cleaned weekly with a damp, soapy cloth.

  • Closets. Remove all stored toys, boxes, and other articles from closets. The closet should contain only clothing and should be as dust-free as the room. Keep all clothes in closets, never lying around the room.

  • Doors. Keep bedroom closet doors and bedroom doors closed as much as possible.

  • Walls. Paint walls or use washable wallpaper. Avoid pennants, pictures, wreaths, flower arrangements or other dust catchers on the walls.

  • Window coverings. Avoid heavy curtains and Venetian or mini-blinds that can catch a lot of dust and are not easily cleaned. Use window shades instead. If you use curtains, you should wash them monthly using hot water.

  • Smoke. Smoke is very irritating in an enclosed area, and it can harm your children. Studies show that children who breathe second-hand smoke are more at-risk for developing lung diseases, such as asthma. Children who have asthma and breathe second-hand smoke have reduced lung function, and have greater healthcare needs than those who do not breathe second-hand smoke. Do not smoke, and do not allow family and friends to smoke anywhere inside the house, or in your car, at any time. Smoke can be trapped in upholstered furniture for long periods of time, which can continue to trigger symptoms. When eating out, always sit in nonsmoking sections of restaurants.

  • Cockroaches. Some people are very allergic to the substance cockroaches leave behind. Cockroaches are very common in warm climates and in homes of people living in the city. However, even in climates with much cooler temperatures, the use of central heat allows the cockroaches to live. To avoid exposure to cockroaches, you should

    • Use roach traps or a professional exterminator

    • Put food in sealed containers

    • Seal cracks around doors, windows and foundations

    • Take out the trash daily

    • Sweep and mop the kitchen once a week

    • Immediately pick up food crumbs and clean liquid spills

  • Strong perfumes and odors. You should avoid items that have a strong smell, including:

    • Perfumed household cleaning products

    • Perfumes and perfumed cosmetics like hair spray and talcum powder

    • Room deodorizers, air fresheners and scented candles

    • Spray and aerosol products

    • Fresh paint. If a family member is painting your house, you should leave the house until the paint dries.

  • Exercise. Even though exercise is a common asthma trigger, you should not limit your participation in sports or other forms of exercise, unless directed by a doctor. Exercise is good for your health and lungs, and you should consult your doctor before beginning an exercise program. Always make sure you have a warm-up and cool-down period before and after exercise. Using a reliever medication 15 to 20 minutes before starting exercise can be very helpful. You should limit outdoor exercise during high pollen, mold or pollution count days, and you should wear a scarf over your nose and mouth when exercising in the cold.

  • Playing. If your child has asthma, do not allow him or her to jump on furniture or beds or wrestle on carpeted floors. Avoid fabric toys or stuffed animals. If your child has stuffed animals, they should be machine washable and washed in hot water or placed in the freezer overnight at least weekly. Store toys in a closed toy chest.


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