Control Your Asthma and Allergy Triggers
What is Asthma?
Asthma is a chronic disease due to inflammation of the airways in the lungs. Asthma episodes can be triggered by allergies, irritants and infections. When asthma flares up, the airways get narrow and produce excess mucus, which makes it hard to breathe. Symptoms include coughing, wheezing, tightness of the chest and shortness of breath. If not managed correctly, asthma can be life-threatening.
What are Allergies?
Allergies are an overreaction of your body’s immune system to a harmless natural substance (such as pollen or animal dander). Allergic reactions can affect the lungs (asthma), nose, eyes, skin and gastrointestinal tract. Allergy symptoms can range from a runny nose, itchy, watery eyes and sneezing to breathlessness and life-threatening anaphylactic shock.
Learn How To Control Asthma Triggers
Common asthma triggers include inhaled allergens, irritants and viral infections. Because specific triggers can vary from person to person, it is important to work with a doctor to determine your triggers.
Indoor allergens (such as dust mites, pets, molds, mildew and pests) are among the most common triggers of asthma. They can be controlled if you know how. (See tips, below.)
Limit the spread of respiratory infections and colds with frequent hand washing.
The most common allergens that trigger asthma are outdoors: pollens from trees, weeds and grasses, as well as mold spores that grow on piles of wet leaves and logs. When “your” pollens are in season, try to stay indoors with a clean air conditioner Avoid using window fans that draw in outside air.
Dry wind, cold weather, humidity and sudden weather changes in the environment can trigger asthma symptoms in some people.
When your local weather forecast announces an “ozone action day” it is important to stay indoors and avoid outdoor activity whenever possible.
Prevent exercise induced asthma flare-ups with extended warm-up and cool-down periods and medication that your doctor may prescribe.
You Can Control Your Asthma or Allergies!
With your doctor, develop a management plan that puts you in control of your asthma and allergies.
Learn what triggers your asthma, possibly through allergy testing.
Avoid exposure to the things that start or “trigger” your asthma or allergy episodes.
Establish and follow a medication schedule. Learn which medications are for long term control and which are for quick relief.
Recognize signs that your asthma or allergies are getting worse and seek treatment.
Have an action plan in case of an emergency.
Allergy shots (immunotherapy) are useful for people who cannot avoid their allergies or control their symptoms with medication.
Tips to Control Indoor Asthma and Allergy Triggers
Dust mites are too small to be seen but are found in every home. They eat the human skin flakes that we shed daily, and live in mattresses, pillow cases, carpets, clothes, stuffed toys, upholstered furniture and other fabric items. To avoid dust mites:
Wash sheets, blankets, clothes and cloth toys once a week in hot water and dry in a clothes dryer.
Use allergy-proof mattress and pillow encasings.
Keep humidity low, between 30%-50%.
Clean often with a vacuum that has a high efficiency or HEPA filter, and dust with a damp cloth.
Remove carpets from the bedroom and any carpets laid on concrete.
Animal dander from a pet’s skin flakes, saliva or urine can attach itself to anything, such as floors, ceilings, clothing or furniture. To avoid animal dander:
Find out what type of pets (e.g., cats vs. dogs) you are allergic to through allergy testing and do not have that type of pet in your home.
Consider keeping pets outdoors or finding them a new home if necessary.
Keep pets out of the bedroom or sleeping areas at all times, and keep the door closed.
Keep pets away from fabric covered toys, furniture and carpets.
Mold & Mildew
Indoor mold and mildew spores grow in damp and humid places such as bathrooms, kitchens and basements. The most important factor in eliminating mold is moisture control.
Any damp surface where mold can grow (i.e. under sinks, showers, refrigerator drip pans) should be cleaned weekly with a weak bleach solution.
Use exhaust fans or open windows in kitchens, bathrooms and basements when showering, cooking, cleaning or using the dish washer.
Maintain low indoor humidity, ideally between 30%-50%. If you use a dehumidifier, be sure to empty and clean the machine regularly.
Keep air conditioner filters clean and dry.
DO NOT use a humidifier.
Droppings or body parts of pests such as cockroaches or rodents can be asthma triggers. To avoid pests:
Do not leave food or garbage out, and quickly clean up all food crumbs or spills.
Plug up holes in walls and window frames to prevent pests from entering.
Store food in airtight containers.
Try using poison baits, boric acid (for cockroaches) or traps before resorting to pesticide sprays.
If these steps are not enough, limit any spraying to infested areas and make sure plenty of fresh air is available when you spray. Keep people with asthma out of the room while spraying.
Second-Hand Smoke and Other Irritants
Smoke, fumes and odors can aggravate the inflammation in the airways that is characteristic of asthma. To avoid and control these common irritants:
Choose not to smoke and do not allow others to smoke around you.
Avoid the use of wood-burning stoves and fireplaces.
Avoid fumes and odors from cleaning supplies, paints, cosmetics and gasoline. Use “fragrance-free” products whenever possible and avoid newly painted areas until they are free of odors.
Use a facemask when working with substances that give off strong fumes and/or odors.