Controlling Asthma

Key Points

  • An asthma attack can happen when you are exposed to “asthma triggers.”
  • Your triggers can be different from those of someone else with asthma.
  • Know your triggers and how to avoid them.
Images of wildfire smoke and pollen

Common asthma triggers

"Secondhand smoke,” smoke created by a smoker and breathed in by a second person, can trigger an asthma attack. If you have asthma, people should never smoke near you.

Dust mites can trigger an asthma attack. Dust mites are microscopic bugs that are in many homes. To prevent attacks:

  • Use allergen-proof mattress and pillowcase covers.
  • Don't use down-filled pillows, quilts, or comforters.
  • Wash your bedding weekly and dry it completely.
  • Vacuum regularly using a vacuum equipped with a HEPA filter.
  • Keep relative humidity levels in the home low, around 30- 50%.

Air pollution can trigger an asthma attack. This pollution can come from factories, cars, or wildfire smoke. Pay attention to air quality forecasts on radio, television, and the internet.

Cockroaches and other pests are often found where food is eaten and crumbs are left behind. To control pests in your home:

  • Remove as many water and food sources as you can.
  • Clean dishes, crumbs, and spills right away.
  • Store food in airtight containers.
  • Keep trash in a closed container.
  • Vacuum or sweep areas that might attract cockroaches or mice often.
  • Seal cracks in cabinets, walls, baseboards, and around plumbing.
  • Avoid using sprays and foggers as these can cause asthma attacks.

Furry pets can trigger an asthma attack if you are allergic to them. If you think a furry pet may be causing attacks, you may want to find the pet another home. If you can't or don't want to find a new home for the pet, protect yourself by:

  • Keeping pets out of bedrooms,
  • Washing furry pets,
  • Using an air cleaner with a HEPA filter, and
  • Using allergen-proof mattress and pillow covers.

People with asthma are not allergic to their pet's fur, so trimming a pet's fur will not help your asthma.

Breathing in mold can trigger an asthma attack whether or not you are allergic to mold. Indoors mold grows in damp areas such as kitchens, bathrooms, and basements, or where water damage has occurred. Get rid of mold in your home to control your attacks. To reduce mold exposure in your home:

  • Dry damp or wet items within 24 to 48 hours to prevent mold growth.
  • Fix water leaks as soon as you can.
  • Replace ceiling tiles and carpet if they are moldy.
  • Use an air conditioner or a dehumidifier to keep indoor humidity low.
  • Keep humidity under 50%. Check more than once a day with a hygrometer.
  • Scrub mold off hard surfaces with detergent and water. Dry completely.
  • Run the bathroom exhaust fan or open the window when showering.

Other triggers for an asthma attack include:

  • Infections linked to flu, colds, and RSV
  • Sinus infections, allergies, or pollen
  • Breathing in some chemicals or fragrances
  • Acid reflux
  • Bad weather, such as thunderstorms or high humidity and cold, dry air
  • Some foods and medicines for people allergic to them
  • Physical exercise or strong emotions that lead to very fast breathing