Avoiding Asthma Triggers

by Jodi Razgaitis

Approximately 15 million Americans suffer from chronic asthma. Exposure to environmental triggers, which irritate breathing airways, can bring about episodes of wheezing, coughing and difficulty breathing. Asthma experts recommend limiting contact with triggers as part of a program of good asthma control to prevent or reduce episodes.

This is especially important during pregnancy. Although it may be impossible to eliminate all triggers, keeping a record of known triggers can help you develop strategies to minimize exposure. The best strategy for asthma control is trigger avoidance, maintaining medical therapy, and open communication with your asthma specialist.

Potential Outdoor Asthma Triggers

Pollen: Avoid going outdoors before 10am when the pollen is at its highest during pollen season (which varies depending on where you live). If you exercise outside, try exercising later in the day. If you drive to work, roll up your car windows to avoid exposure. Staying indoors with the air conditioning on can also help alleviate symptoms. These measures also help reduce contact with outdoor molds, another asthma trigger.

Cold Weather: During the winter months, wear a scarf and breathe into the scarf so the cold air warms before entering your airways. Breathing through your nose instead of your mouth often helps.

Smoke: Avoid wood burning (bonfires), cigarette smoke, and fireplaces.

Pollution: Exhaust, smog and ozone are important environmental triggers. Stay indoors during smog alerts and avoid midday activities.

Potential Indoor Asthma Triggers

Mold: Mold can grow on almost anything when enough moisture is present, both outdoors and in the home. Scrub mold off surfaces and thoroughly dry the area to prevent moisture from building up. To prevent mold growth, lower humidity in the house to 30-50% relative humidity. Have air vents cleaned. Use a dehumidifier in the home and clean it every day.

Dust: Keep surfaces clear of dust using damp rags. Vacuum carpets, fabric-covered furniture and curtains. Those allergic to dust should not be in the room while vacuuming. Vacuums with high-efficiency filters are the best.

Dust Mites: The droppings of dust mites, bugs that cannot be seen by the naked eye, can trigger asthma. They feed on skin flakes and other proteins that live in mattresses, carpets and clothes. Wash all bedding at least once a week in hot water, encase mattresses and pillows in zipped allergen covers and avoid keeping stuffed animals on the bed. Keep household humidity low.

Pet Dander: Dead skin flakes, urine, saliva and hair of pets can trigger asthma. If a pet must stay in the home, it's best to keep pets out of the bedroom and restrict the pet to specific areas of the household. Wash the pet often. Pet hair and dander can be carried to other parts of the home on clothing.

Cockroaches: Cockroaches are only a problem in certain cities and climates. Cockroach droppings and body parts can irritate asthma sufferers. Clean up spills immediately and take the garbage out regularly. Do not leave food out uncovered, store food in cabinets and counters in airtight containers. Remove empty boxes and newspapers. Use poison baits and traps instead of chemicals and sprays for pest control.

Chemicals: Avoid contact with perfumed products and chemical inhalants.

Copyright © Jodi Razgaitis. Permission to republish granted to Pregnancy.org, LLC.