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Stay away from asthma triggers

Asthma triggers - stay away from; Asthma triggers - avoiding; Reactive airway disease - triggers; Bronchial asthma - triggers

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 have asthma triggers, such as:

  • The air we breathe
  • Furniture and carpets
  • Our pets

Stay Away From Smoking

If you smoke, ask your health care provider for help quitting. No one should smoke in your house. This includes you and your visitors.

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 your 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 do not smoke near your child.

Stay away from restaurants and bars that allow smoking. Or, ask for a table as far away from smokers as possible.

Pollen

When pollen levels are high:

  • Stay indoors and keep doors and windows closed. Use an air conditioner if you have one.
  • Do outside activities in the late afternoon or after a heavy rain.
  • Wear a facemask 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 facemask if you must do it.

Dust Mites

You can take several steps to limit exposure to dust mites.

  • Wrap mattresses, box springs, and pillows in mite-proof covers.
  • Wash bedding and pillows once a week in hot water (130°F to 140°F [54°C to 60°C]).
  • If you can, get rid of upholstered furniture. Use wooden, leather, or vinyl furniture instead.
  • Keep indoor air dry. Try to keep the humidity level lower than 50%.
  • Wipe away dust with a damp cloth and vacuum once a week. Use a vacuum cleaner with a HEPA (high-efficiency particulate arrestor) 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 closet doors closed.

Mold Spores

Keeping indoor humidity at less than 50% will keep mold spores down. To do so:

  • Keep sinks and tubs dry and clean.
  • Fix leaky pipes.
  • Empty and wash refrigerator trays that collect water from the freezer.
  • Defrost your refrigerator 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 dry.

Pets can Make Asthma Worse

Keep pets with fur or feathers outside, if possible. If pets stay inside, keep them out of bedrooms and off upholstered furniture and carpets.

Wash pets once a week if possible.

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.

Roaches 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 airtight wood-burning stove.

Do not use perfumes or scented cleaning sprays. Use trigger sprays instead of aerosols.

Discuss any other possible triggers with your provider and how to avoid them.

References

Bergstrom J, Kurth M, Hieman BE, et al. Institute for Clinical Systems Improvement website. Health Care Guideline: Diagnosis and Management of Asthma. 11th ed. www.icsi.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/Asthma.pdf. Updated December 2016. Accessed February 5, 2020.

Custovic A, Tovey E. Allergen control for prevention and management of allergic diseases. In: Burks AW, Holgate ST, O'Hehir RE, et al, eds. Middleton's Allergy: Principles and Practice. 9th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2020:chap 84.

Rank MA, Schatz M. Asthma in adolescents and adults. In: Kellerman RD, Rakel DP, eds. Conn's Current Therapy 2020. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2020:819-826.

Stewart GA, Robinson C. Indoor and outdoor allergens and pollutants. In: O'Hehir RE, Holgate ST, Sheikh A, eds. Middleton's Allergy Essentials. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2017:chap 4.

Vishwanathan RK, Busse WW. Management of asthma in adolescents and adults. In: Burks AW, Holgate ST, O'Hehir RE, et al, eds. Middleton's Allergy: Principles and Practice. 9th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2020:chap 52.

  • Allergy to mold - animal dander - dust

    Animation

  •  

    Allergy to mold - animal dander - dust - Animation

    Your house is where you're supposed to feel most comfortable, but for many people life at home is pretty unpleasant. When they breathe in the tiny particles of dust, mold, or pet dander that are floating around their house, they sneeze, cough, break out in a rash, and can even have trouble catching their breath. Let's talk about allergies to mold, pet dander, and dust. Although we try to keep our homes clean, all sorts of little critters can sneak in. Mold is a tiny fungus that thrives in damp places, like your bathroom shower curtain or basement ceiling. Dust is made up of particles from your skin and clothing, plus tiny insects called mites. It floats around your house, skirting your broom and collecting into bunnies. And pet dander is the little pieces of skin your dog or cat sheds. Most of us can breathe in a little bit of mold, dust, or dander without having any problems. But for some people, these substances trigger a chorus of sneezes, wheezes, and coughs, as well as watery eyes, itchy skin, and hives. If you're allergic to dust, dander, or mold, it's because your immune system is over-reacting, mistakenly targeting them as if they were bacteria or viruses. So, how do you know you have an allergy? Your doctor can find out for sure by doing allergy tests. One common way to do these tests is to put a small amount of the offending substance under your skin. If you have a reaction, you're probably allergic to it. You can also have a blood test to look for substances called antibodies, which your body produces in response to dust and other allergens. How your allergy is treated depends on your symptoms, and what's causing it. You may take allergy medicines like Zyrtec or Claritin. Or, you can have allergy shots to get your body used to whatever substance you're allergic to, so it doesn't react to it in the future. The obvious treatment is to avoid whatever is causing your allergy. Once you know what you are allergic to you may want to, Keep your house dry so mold has nowhere to grow. If your home tends to be humid, a dehumidifier can help take some of the moisture out of the air. Throw out any moldy shower curtains and clean mold from ceilings and floors. Wrap your mattresses, box springs, and pillows in dust mite-proof covers. Wash all of your bedding in hot water at least once a week. Also wash stuffed toys, which can collect dust, and vacuum carpets. Wash and groom your pet regularly to get rid of dander. And install a HEPA filter to clean the air in your home. By keeping your house clean and treating your symptoms, you should be able to live more comfortably in your home without sneezing. Allergy shots can also do the trick. If you've tried everything and your allergies are still driving you nuts, talk to your doctor about finding other ways to relieve your symptoms.

  • Asthma

    Animation

  •  

    Asthma - Animation

    Breathing is something we do without even thinking about it. But some people have a hard time breathing easily. They wheeze, cough, and just can't get enough air into their lungs. Let's talk about asthma. Normally when you breathe, oxygen-rich air enters your nose and mouth and travels to the airways in your lungs. But when you have an asthma attack, the muscles in your airways tighten. Your airways swell up and get narrower. It's like pressing on a straw when you're trying to drink through it. The more you press, the less of your drink can squeeze up through the straw. In the same way, less air can squeeze through tight airways into your lungs. So, what causes asthma? People with asthma have different triggers. Some people are sensitive to pet hair or dander. Others find that dust, pollen, smoke, or chemicals make them wheeze. You may have trouble breathing when you're under stress or working out at the gym. Often people with asthma have allergies that trigger their attacks. Others have a parent or other relative who has allergies. You may ask, how can you know for sure that you have asthma? During an asthma attack, you'll have trouble breathing. You may cough or wheeze as you try to draw air into your lungs. If you're having a severe attack, your lips and face may turn blue and you'll have a hard time getting any air. That's when it's time to call for emergency help. Your doctor will listen to your lungs with a stethoscope, and may do other tests to check your blood and lung function. To find out what's triggering your asthma, you may need to be tested for allergies to mold, pollen, pet dander, or other substances. To measure the strength of air flowing out of your lungs, you'll blow into a device called a peak flow meter. You can also use a peak flow meter to make sure you're keeping your asthma under control. Different medicines are used to prevent and treat asthma. Control drugs help you avoid asthma attacks, but you need to take them every day for them to work. You breathe in control drugs like Flovent, Singulair, and Pulmicort through an inhaler. If you're having an asthma attack, you can take a quick-relief drug to control your wheezing. Examples of quick-relief drugs include short-acting inhaled drugs and steroid medicines that you take by mouth. When you have asthma, you need to be prepared. Know your asthma triggers and try to avoid them. Carry an inhaler with you in case you have an asthma attack. If you ever have an attack that's so severe you can't breathe, call 911 or get emergency medical help.

  • Asthma triggers

    Asthma triggers - illustration

    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. The most common asthma triggers are respiratory tract infections caused by viruses, such as the flu and common cold. Other triggers are cold and dry air, mold, pets, dust, grasses, pollen, cockroaches, odors from chemicals, and smoke from cigarettes.

    Asthma triggers

    illustration

  • Dust mite-proof pillow cover

    Dust mite-proof pillow cover - illustration

    To help decrease the amount of dust mites encase mattresses, boxsprings, and pillows with mite-proof covers. Further methods consist of washing bedding once a week in hot water, and dusting with a wet cloth once a week. Carpets can be a significant source of dust mites and should be vacuumed weekly with a vacuum cleaner containing a HEPA filter. Wooden and leather furniture is also another way to reduce the dust mite population in the home.

    Dust mite-proof pillow cover

    illustration

  • HEPA air filter

    HEPA air filter - illustration

    A HEPA (High Efficiency Particle Arresting) filter can remove the majority of harmful particles, including mold spores, dust, dust mites, pet dander and other irritating allergens from the air. Along with other methods to reduce allergens, such as frequent dusting, the use of a HEPA filtration system can be a helpful aid in controlling the amount of allergens circulating in the air. HEPA filters can be found in most air purifiers, which are usually small and portable.

    HEPA air filter

    illustration

  • Allergy to mold - animal dander - dust

    Animation

  •  

    Allergy to mold - animal dander - dust - Animation

    Your house is where you're supposed to feel most comfortable, but for many people life at home is pretty unpleasant. When they breathe in the tiny particles of dust, mold, or pet dander that are floating around their house, they sneeze, cough, break out in a rash, and can even have trouble catching their breath. Let's talk about allergies to mold, pet dander, and dust. Although we try to keep our homes clean, all sorts of little critters can sneak in. Mold is a tiny fungus that thrives in damp places, like your bathroom shower curtain or basement ceiling. Dust is made up of particles from your skin and clothing, plus tiny insects called mites. It floats around your house, skirting your broom and collecting into bunnies. And pet dander is the little pieces of skin your dog or cat sheds. Most of us can breathe in a little bit of mold, dust, or dander without having any problems. But for some people, these substances trigger a chorus of sneezes, wheezes, and coughs, as well as watery eyes, itchy skin, and hives. If you're allergic to dust, dander, or mold, it's because your immune system is over-reacting, mistakenly targeting them as if they were bacteria or viruses. So, how do you know you have an allergy? Your doctor can find out for sure by doing allergy tests. One common way to do these tests is to put a small amount of the offending substance under your skin. If you have a reaction, you're probably allergic to it. You can also have a blood test to look for substances called antibodies, which your body produces in response to dust and other allergens. How your allergy is treated depends on your symptoms, and what's causing it. You may take allergy medicines like Zyrtec or Claritin. Or, you can have allergy shots to get your body used to whatever substance you're allergic to, so it doesn't react to it in the future. The obvious treatment is to avoid whatever is causing your allergy. Once you know what you are allergic to you may want to, Keep your house dry so mold has nowhere to grow. If your home tends to be humid, a dehumidifier can help take some of the moisture out of the air. Throw out any moldy shower curtains and clean mold from ceilings and floors. Wrap your mattresses, box springs, and pillows in dust mite-proof covers. Wash all of your bedding in hot water at least once a week. Also wash stuffed toys, which can collect dust, and vacuum carpets. Wash and groom your pet regularly to get rid of dander. And install a HEPA filter to clean the air in your home. By keeping your house clean and treating your symptoms, you should be able to live more comfortably in your home without sneezing. Allergy shots can also do the trick. If you've tried everything and your allergies are still driving you nuts, talk to your doctor about finding other ways to relieve your symptoms.

  • Asthma

    Animation

  •  

    Asthma - Animation

    Breathing is something we do without even thinking about it. But some people have a hard time breathing easily. They wheeze, cough, and just can't get enough air into their lungs. Let's talk about asthma. Normally when you breathe, oxygen-rich air enters your nose and mouth and travels to the airways in your lungs. But when you have an asthma attack, the muscles in your airways tighten. Your airways swell up and get narrower. It's like pressing on a straw when you're trying to drink through it. The more you press, the less of your drink can squeeze up through the straw. In the same way, less air can squeeze through tight airways into your lungs. So, what causes asthma? People with asthma have different triggers. Some people are sensitive to pet hair or dander. Others find that dust, pollen, smoke, or chemicals make them wheeze. You may have trouble breathing when you're under stress or working out at the gym. Often people with asthma have allergies that trigger their attacks. Others have a parent or other relative who has allergies. You may ask, how can you know for sure that you have asthma? During an asthma attack, you'll have trouble breathing. You may cough or wheeze as you try to draw air into your lungs. If you're having a severe attack, your lips and face may turn blue and you'll have a hard time getting any air. That's when it's time to call for emergency help. Your doctor will listen to your lungs with a stethoscope, and may do other tests to check your blood and lung function. To find out what's triggering your asthma, you may need to be tested for allergies to mold, pollen, pet dander, or other substances. To measure the strength of air flowing out of your lungs, you'll blow into a device called a peak flow meter. You can also use a peak flow meter to make sure you're keeping your asthma under control. Different medicines are used to prevent and treat asthma. Control drugs help you avoid asthma attacks, but you need to take them every day for them to work. You breathe in control drugs like Flovent, Singulair, and Pulmicort through an inhaler. If you're having an asthma attack, you can take a quick-relief drug to control your wheezing. Examples of quick-relief drugs include short-acting inhaled drugs and steroid medicines that you take by mouth. When you have asthma, you need to be prepared. Know your asthma triggers and try to avoid them. Carry an inhaler with you in case you have an asthma attack. If you ever have an attack that's so severe you can't breathe, call 911 or get emergency medical help.

  • Asthma triggers

    Asthma triggers - illustration

    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. The most common asthma triggers are respiratory tract infections caused by viruses, such as the flu and common cold. Other triggers are cold and dry air, mold, pets, dust, grasses, pollen, cockroaches, odors from chemicals, and smoke from cigarettes.

    Asthma triggers

    illustration

  • Dust mite-proof pillow cover

    Dust mite-proof pillow cover - illustration

    To help decrease the amount of dust mites encase mattresses, boxsprings, and pillows with mite-proof covers. Further methods consist of washing bedding once a week in hot water, and dusting with a wet cloth once a week. Carpets can be a significant source of dust mites and should be vacuumed weekly with a vacuum cleaner containing a HEPA filter. Wooden and leather furniture is also another way to reduce the dust mite population in the home.

    Dust mite-proof pillow cover

    illustration

  • HEPA air filter

    HEPA air filter - illustration

    A HEPA (High Efficiency Particle Arresting) filter can remove the majority of harmful particles, including mold spores, dust, dust mites, pet dander and other irritating allergens from the air. Along with other methods to reduce allergens, such as frequent dusting, the use of a HEPA filtration system can be a helpful aid in controlling the amount of allergens circulating in the air. HEPA filters can be found in most air purifiers, which are usually small and portable.

    HEPA air filter

    illustration

A Closer Look

 

Self Care

 
 

Review Date: 1/12/2020

Reviewed By: David C. Dugdale, III, MD, Professor of Medicine, Division of General Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

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