You want to feel good in your own home, right? If you have asthma, you can take steps to remove or minimize triggers at home that cause breathing problems and asthma flare-ups.
By triggers we mean those things (such as pollen, mold, dust mites, and cigarette smoke) that can make your asthma worse. Someone who has asthma always has some swelling or irritation in the airways. Exposure to triggers can make this problem worse. Triggers are usually harmless to most people, but if you have asthma, triggers can cause coughing, wheezing, and shortness of breath.
Because triggers are different for each person, you need to work with your doctor to figure out your specific triggers. If you think an allergy might be triggering your asthma, talk to your doctor about getting allergy testing to find out what you could be allergic to.
Once you know what's making your symptoms worse, you can work to get rid of that stuff at home. What you need to do will depend on what's triggering your symptoms. Some people are affected only by animal dander. Others might have several triggers, so it may take some time to figure out all the preventive steps that should be taken.
The air in your house could contain irritants such as tobacco or wood smoke, perfumes, aerosol sprays, cleaning products, and fumes from paint or cooking gas. All of these can trigger asthma flare-ups. Even scented candles or fresh newsprint are triggers for some people with asthma.
Air pollution, outdoor mold, and pollen are also common triggers that can travel inside, especially if you leave your windows and doors open in warmer weather.
To improve your indoor air quality at home:
Dust mites, a common asthma trigger, are microscopic bugs that live in dust. Their diet consists primarily of shed human skin cells (gross, but true). There are lots of them in upholstered furniture, on some kinds of bedding, and in rugs. The highest number of dust mites in the home is usually found in bedrooms.
You won't be able to completely get rid of dust mites. You can take these steps to reduce your contact with them, though:
Molds are microscopic living things that are kind of like plants. They can grow on many surfaces and do especially well in damp places like bathrooms and basements. Molds reproduce by sending spores into the air. Inhaled mold spores are a common asthma trigger.
The key to controlling mold in your home is keeping things as dry as possible:
Animals are a big asthma trigger; as many as 30% of people with asthma are allergic to one or more animals. These allergies are caused by a specific protein found in the animal's dander (skin flakes), saliva, urine, or feathers. Animal hair itself does not cause allergies, but it can collect dust mites, pollen, and mold. And any animal that lives in a cage, from birds to gerbils, will produce droppings that can attract mold and dust.
And pets aren't the only allergy-causing creatures at home — cockroaches are a major asthma trigger that can be difficult to avoid in apartments.
If you have a pet and you're allergic to it, your best bet is to find it a good home somewhere else. Of course, that's not possible for some people. If that's the case for you, try taking these steps:
They're not as cuddly, but fish are OK pets for people with asthma.
If cockroaches are a problem:
It can seem overwhelming to make your home trigger free, especially if you have multiple triggers. Here are five steps to take to begin.
Reviewed by: Elana Pearl Ben-Joseph, MD
Date reviewed: October 2010
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