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Controlling Asthma Triggers

Triggers are those things that can make your asthma symptoms get worse or flare up. They may include all or some of the following:

  • Allergens

  • Irritants

  • Exercise

  • Strong emotions

  • Medical conditions

  • Weather changes

It is important to know your triggers. And try to avoid them, if possible.

Cleaning with a towel and spray bottle

Allergens

These include indoor allergens such as dust, mold, pet dander, and cockroaches. Outdoor allergens include pollens, mold, grasses, and trees.

You may already know that allergies worsen your asthma. If you think allergens may be a problem, talk with your healthcare provider. He or she may recommend that you see an allergist. An allergist may do testing and provide treatment.

What you can do indoors:

  • Dust often with a damp cloth. You might use a mask while cleaning.

  • Remove unneeded clutter that can collect dust or grow mold. If possible, remove carpeting and rugs.

  • Use exhaust fans in bathrooms and kitchens.

  • Make sure air conditioners, heating units, and appliances are clean. Change filters often.

  • Wash your bedding every week and use dust-proof pillow and mattress covers.

  • If you have pets, keep them out of your bedroom and off upholstered sofas or chairs and carpeting. Have pets groomed often.

  • Wash dishes and clean counter tops after eating or preparing meals to avoid attracting cockroaches. Keep all foods in sealed bags or containers.

  • Use home air filters and vacuums designed to decrease allergens. Don’t forget to change filters or clean them as instructed.

What you can do outdoors:

  • Check the pollen counts in your area. And try to stay indoors when levels are high.

  • Wash your hands when you come indoors if allergen levels are high. Also think about bathing and changing your clothes.

  • Avoid raking leaves or cutting the grass if these activities bother you. Consider wearing a mask when you work in your garden.

Irritants

These include air pollution, smoke, strong odors, chemicals, and other products.

What you can do:

  • If you smoke, think about quitting. And try to stay away from secondhand and third-hand smoke.

  • Stay away from fireplaces, wood stoves, barbecues or grills, or other sources of smoke.

  • Watch air pollution levels. If the level is high, stay indoors as much as possible.

  • Use scent-free cleaning, laundry, health, and beauty products.

  • Don’t use candles, potpourri, or air fresheners.

Your symptoms may be worse at work or other places you spend a lot of time. Work with your healthcare provider or an allergist to figure out what is causing your symptoms and possible solutions.

Exercise and physical activity

Some people have asthma symptoms or flare-ups only with exercise or physical activity. And some people have several triggers including exercise.

 

What you can do:

  • If you only have symptoms with exercise, your healthcare provider may prescribe medicine for you to use before exercise.

  • Talk with your healthcare provider about how you can exercise safely and what to do if you have trouble breathing while exercising.

  • Think about exercising indoors when weather or outdoor air quality makes it harder for you to breathe.

Strong emotions

Strong emotions like laughing and crying can act as triggers.  And feeling depressed, stressed, or anxious can also worsen symptoms.

What you can do:

  • Know that you can’t always control your emotions.

  • Try deep breathing, relaxation exercises, meditation, or yoga to help you relax.

  • Talk with your healthcare provider if you need help dealing with your emotions. Medicines, counseling, and other programs can help.

Medical conditions

Infections of the nose or sinuses, reflux (GERD), and sleep apnea are more common in people with asthma. These conditions also make asthma more difficult to control.

What you can do:

  • See your healthcare provider regularly. Make sure he or she knows about any problems you are having, such as heartburn or indigestion.

  • Try to stay away from people who have colds, coughs, or the flu. And wash your hands often.

  • Stay up-to-date on your immunizations. This includes getting a flu shot every year. 

If your asthma is triggered by respiratory infections and you begin to have symptoms, take your asthma medicines as instructed by your healthcare provider. Look for respiratory symptoms like nasal stuffiness, runny nose, cough, or sore throat.

Weather changes

Very cold or hot weather can worsen symptoms.

What you can do:

  • Stay indoors when the weather is very cold, hot, windy, or humid.

  • Cover your nose and mouth with a scarf in the cold weather. Some people also use masks.

Try your best to avoid things that cause your asthma symptoms to worsen or flare up. Talk with your healthcare provider or nurse about other ways to stay away from triggers.

Online Medical Reviewer: Blaivas, Allen J., DO
Online Medical Reviewer: Fraser, Marianne, MSN, RN
Date Last Reviewed: 11/1/2016
© 2000-2017 The StayWell Company, LLC. 800 Township Line Road, Yardley, PA 19067. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.