Know Your Asthma Triggers
Some asthma triggers are things that you are allergic to and some just irritate your airways. Triggers can cause asthma symptoms, and can bring on an asthma attack.
- Prevent asthma symptoms and asthma flares by staying away from things that make your asthma worse.
- Asthma triggers are everywhere; outside, in businesses, at your work place, schools, everywhere. Triggers can also be found in your home. You can determine what triggers might exist in your home, by assessing your entire home for triggers. Use an Asthma Home Environment Checklist to identify triggers and how to approach removal or reducing exposure to that specific asthma trigger.
- Work with your health care provider to identify what triggers make your asthma worse and how to avoid and/or get rid of them.
- Asthma triggers are not the same for each and every person – they are unique to each individual and every person’s lungs react differently to each specific trigger.
Are things that you can breathe in, eat or come in contact with that causes you to have an allergic reaction.
Some people are allergic to the body parts, secretions, and droppings (poop) from these pests.
- Seal openings, cracks and crevices leading into your home.
- Do not leave food or garbage uncovered.
- Clean up spills and food crumbs right away.
- Store food in airtight containers and cooking grease in the refrigerator.
- Keep food out of the bedroom.
Tiny spider-like mites like humid conditions – they live in cloth, carpet, and bedding. You can’t see a dust mite with the human eye.
- Get special dust mite-proof covers for your pillows and mattresses.
- Wash sheets and blankets in hot water every week.
- Purchase stuffed animals that can go in the washer and dryer. Wash stuffed toys weekly.
- Use high quality filter if you have forced air furnace.
- Keep the room humidity (relative humidity) in the home low between 30 and 50%.
- Avoid having carpeting, if you can, or vacuum weekly with a High Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) vacuum with a bag to capture allergens.
- Asthma-friendly products: Do they help reduce symptoms Mayo Clinic
- Air Cleaners and Air Filters in the Home US Environmental Protection Agency
- Dust Mites American Lung Association of Minnesota
- Managing Dust Mites (PDF) University of Nebraska Lincoln Extension Program
- Dust Mite Allergy Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America
Some people are allergic to allergens in dander (skin flakes) urine, feces, and saliva from furry/hairy animals and birds.
- Keep warm blooded (cats, dogs, gerbils, birds) pets with fur, hair or feathers out of your home.
- If you can’t keep your pet outdoors, then keep the pet out of your bedroom, and keep the bedroom door closed.
- Keep pets off upholstered furniture and away from stuffed toys.
- Wash your hands with soap and water after petting, playing with pets or touching their chew toys, bedding or blankets.
Pollen from trees, grasses and weeds can be inhaled into the lungs and cause allergy and asthma symptoms.
- Limit outdoor activities when pollen counts are high.
- Keep your windows (home and car) closed during pollen season and when mold counts are high.
- Change and wash clothes after outdoor activities to avoid bringing allergens inside your home.
- Shower and wash your hair before bed during high pollen days.
- Washing bedding in hot, soapy water once a week.
- Dry clothes in a clothes dryer – not hang up outside on the laundry line.
- Wear sunglasses and a hat to keep allergens out of your eyes and off your hair.
- Limit close-up cuddle time with your pets that spend lots of time outdoors.
- Ask your health care provider about the benefits of taking allergy medication before your allergy season begins.
- National Allergy Bureau, Pollen and Spore Levels - Midwest View Pollen and Mold levels available for Minnesota/Minneapolis.
- Minnesota Pollen and Health Data MN Public Health Data Access Portal
- What Are Pollen Allergies and How Can You Manage Them? A video produced by National Jewish Health that explains the symptoms, diagnosis, treatments and how to manage pollen allergies.
- Outdoor Allergens American Academy of Allergy Asthma and Immunology
- Pollen Allergy Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America
Molds are a type of fungus. There are many different types of molds found on earth. Mold sometimes referred to as mildew likes warm, dark, and/or moist conditions. Molds reproduce and grow sending tiny spores into the air. Spores, when inhaled, can trigger asthma and allergy symptoms.
- Mold needs water to grow, so repair leaking faucets, pipes, or other sources of water.
- Dry wet materials within 24 -48 hours.
- Remove small amounts of mold growth and scrub surfaces with a stiff brush, hot water and household detergent. Rinse the area with clean water and dry area completely.
- Use bathroom and kitchen exhaust fans to remove moisture when cooking and showering.
- Use a dehumidifier in the basement if it is damp and smelly.
Things in the air/environment that can irritate your lungs making it hard to breathe and triggering asthma symptoms.
Tobacco smoke is a powerful trigger of asthma symptoms and attacks. Tobacco smoke contains irritating substances (a mixture of over 7,000 chemicals) and when inhaled it irritates the moist linings of the lungs airways. These substances can bring on an asthma attack.
- Do not allow smoking or vaping at ANYTIME in your home or vehicles.
- If you smoke, talk to your health care provider about quitting or call the QUITPLAN Services for more information.
Air pollution can make asthma symptoms worse and trigger asthma attacks. Two key pollutants can affect asthma. One is ozone (ground-level ozone) and the other is particle matter pollution (PM) (found in haze, smoke, and dust).
- Sign-up up for daily air quality forecasts and Air Quality Alerts provided by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA).
- Be air aware. Know when air quality is unhealthy and listen to your body.
- Keep your quick-relief medicine on hand when you’re active outdoors.
- Protect yourself while driving –When in traffic close your windows and set your ventilation system to recirculate the air to avoid breathing vehicle exhaust.
- Try and avoid exposure to pollutants – Stay away from wood smoke, vehicle exhaust, tobacco smoke, and other sources of airborne particles.
- Consult your health care provider if you have asthma symptoms when the air is polluted.
- Check out the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) Air Quality Index and sign up for air quality daily forecasts and AQI alerts. Call the AQI information line (651-297-1630).
- Air quality and you: Health effects of air pollution
- Air Quality and Health (videos) available in English, Hmong, Somali, and Spanish, MPCA
- Air Quality Index A Guide to Air Quality and Your Health
US Environmental Protection Agency.
These triggers can all reduce air quality and irritate the airways for those with asthma. Caution and avoidance should be strongly considered when purchasing and using scented products around family members, neighbors, and work colleagues with asthma. Today’s consumer products contain complex mixtures of natural materials and synthetic chemicals that can irritate asthma airways and bring on symptoms and asthma attacks.
- Avoid smoke from backyard or recreational fires.
- Think twice before buying and using products that have strong lingering odors, like perfume, cologne, air fresheners, etc.
- Talk to family members and others (neighbors, employers, and co-workers) about your asthma and which products can cause an asthma attack.
Respiratory viruses like the common cold or the flu can bring on symptoms like chest tightness or wheezing if you have asthma. Inflammation/swelling causes the airways (bronchial tubes) to narrow that can lead to an asthma attack.
- Wash your hands often with soap and water – for at least 20 seconds.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth.
- Get your flu shot every year, preferably in the fall.
- Avoid contact with people who have colds or viruses.
- Follow your Asthma Action Plan, and see your health care provider right away if your symptoms get worse.
Exercised-induced asthma is a narrowing of the airways in the lungs triggered by exercise that raises your heart rate and makes you breathe harder and faster. It can cause shortness of breath, wheezing, coughing, and other symptoms during or after exercise or intense workouts.
- Use your rescue inhaler before sports or exercise to prevent symptoms from developing - if directed by your health care provider.
- Warm up and cool down for at least 5-10 minutes before and after sports or exercise.
- Follow-up with your health care provider if you see no improvement after using your rescue inhaler.
- Exercise-Induced Bronchoconstriction (Asthma), Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America
- Precautions to Prevent Asthma Attacks Triggered by Cold Weather National Jewish Health
- Home Allergy Management for Everyone (HOME) is an online tool to educate allergy suffers on managing indoor allergens. Use the tool to learn about the different types of indoor allergens and to receive room-by-room tips on managing allergies. This resource is created by the American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology.
- Asthma Triggers: Hiding In Your Home (2:46 minutes), American Lung Association This short video presents the types of asthma triggers that can be found especially in the home environment. A discussion of asthma triggers and how to eliminate the triggers at the source.