For many of us, controlling asthma symptoms is a way of life. It is almost impossible to avoid these symptoms all of the time, but knowing what materials, conditions, or activities trigger your asthma and learning how to avoid them is key to living a healthy life.
Things that cause asthma attacks in one person might be different for someone else. Educating yourself on common causes of asthma attacks is important in preventing exposure and reducing allergy flare-ups. Some common allergy triggers are:
- Breathing in mold and mildew: The moisture in the air, called humidity, makes mold grow. Keep the humidity level low by using a dehumidifier or an air conditioner in your basement and your home. Humidity levels should not be higher than 50%. Install an exhaust fan in the bathroom, or open the window to help reduce the moisture level in the air after showering. Avoid mold growing behind the walls by checking and fixing all water leaks. Check around your yard for piles of molded wood and leaves and discard them.
- Dust Mites: Tiny bugs, called dust mites, are common asthma and allergy triggers. Believe it or not, almost every home contains dust mites. Cover your bed mattresses, pillows, sofas and box springs with dust-proof covers. Avoid down pillows and bedding. Remove clutter as much as possible from your home, especially in the closets and in the bedrooms. Wash all bedding on the hottest water setting to kill off dust mites. Minimize your stuffed animal collection. If possible, avoid carpeting and stick with wood or laminate flooring or tile which is easier to clean
- Cockroaches and their droppings: Cockroaches are usually found in places where food is eaten and crumbs are left behind. To get rid of cockroaches that may be lurking around your home, remove as many food and water sources you have lying around your home. This includes half-filled water glasses and empty candy wrappers that might have been left in bedrooms or basements. Try and sweep or vacuum every couple of days to minimize crumbs. Cover up all food after eating. Keep food in airtight containers or in the refrigerator. Keep your trash cans tightly covered. Be sure to check outside to see if there are cockroaches hiding around the outside of your home. Seal up cracks where roaches can get in. Limit the use of pesticides when possible.
- Smoke: First things first. If you have asthma and you smoke, please consider quitting smoking. But secondhand smoke also causes asthma attacks. Even the smell of smoke on clothing is enough to cause an attack in certain people. Avoid standing near people when they are smoking and don’t allow anyone to smoke in your home or your car. If you do smoke, wash your hands after smoking.
- Fumes from gas, wood, kerosene stoves, fireplaces, stoves, and even car exhaust can trigger asthma and allergy attacks. Avoid burning wood in your home. Make sure your stove is properly vented to the outside. For gas stoves, install an exhaust fan that vents outside while cooking. If you plan on using an unvented kerosene or gas space heater, be sure to open the window or use an exhaust fan. When using your fireplace, make sure the flue is open so the smoke escapes out the chimney. Clean and inspect your heating system each year. If you have an attached garage, do not keep your car idling inside the garage. Avoid breathing in barbeque and campfire smoke. Use an air conditioner as much as possible in the spring and summer months to clean your indoor air. Change the filter at least once a month.
- Our cute and cuddly friends, our pets, may trigger asthma flare-ups in some people. If possible, bathe your pets weekly. If possible, vacuum often. People with asthma are not allergic to the pet’s hair, so keeping the hair trimmed doesn’t usually help. It is the pet dander that is the trigger. Dust and mop using microfiber cloths and mops and vacuum with a HEPA filtered vacuum.
- Many common household products, like cleaning supplies, paints, pesticides, perfumes, and soaps can be a problem for some people with asthma. These strong smelling products release chemicals into the air. Avoid toxic chemicals by cleaning with non-toxic, natural ingredients. Use unscented or fragrance-free soaps, shampoos, and detergents. Avoid wearing perfumes or colognes. Instead of using air fresheners and scented candles, choose essential oils. Avoid pesticides. Use non-toxic paints and clays. Avoid using chalk because of the dust.
- Dust: As much as we clean it, dust is always around. Dust is filled with a variety of allergy triggers that need to be avoided. Be sure to dust your home with a microfiber cloth because the microfiber cloth traps the dust instead of releasing it back into the air. A HEPA filtered vacuum is the only kind of vacuum that actually removes dust particles.