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Asthma triggers are either allergic or nonallergic. Allergic triggers are things that provoke an immune system response -- things like dust mites, mold, cockroaches and pollen. These are common types of allergic asthma triggers. Nonallergic asthma triggers provoke the same type of asthma symptoms as in allergic asthma; the mechanism of those symptoms does not involve the immune system. Things like smoke, exercise, viruses, stress, and cold, dry air are common nonallergic triggers.
Since most people with asthma have the allergic type, you should be tested for allergies if you haven't already been. If you have allergies, knowing what substances trigger your immune system response is key. Only then can you properly minimize your exposure to them. Until you know, here are some easy steps to reducing exposure to some of the most common allergens.
- Keep It Clean: You can help cut down on certain allergens in your environment with thorough cleaning. Just wear a mask when you clean so you don't breathe in all the dust and particles that cleaning stirs up. Vacuum all soft surfaces in your home and car regularly. Mop or wet-wipe all hard surfaces weekly. And wash your bedding in hot water -- at least 130 degrees Fahrenheit -- to kill dust mites and remove pet dander. And don't forget the kitchen and bathroom. A tidy kitchen is especially important if you have cockroach allergies. And keeping water leaks and visible mold down in the bathroom -- and basement -- will help minimize mold spores, another common allergen.
- Keep It Contained: Creating some distance between you and your triggers is another good avoidance strategy. Keeping windows and doors closed will help minimize pollen in your house, keeping pets out of the bedroom will minimize exposure to dander, and putting mite-proof covers on pillows, mattresses and box springs will help reduce exposure to dust mite detritus.
- Keep It Simple: Certain fixtures in your home -- like carpeting, drapes and upholstery -- may collect extra dust and dander. So choose fabrics and surfaces that are easier to clean, like linoleum, tile, wood, leather, metal, vinyl or plastic for furniture and floors. Opt for easy-to-clean window coverings, like vinyl blinds and bamboo shades that can be wiped down.
The best strategy is to avoid airborne irritants whenever possible.
• Get rid of your swamp cooler -- use central air conditioning. If this isn’t possible, at least use an air conditioner in your bedroom.
• Watch the news for pollution alerts (high ozone days), and be ready to step up your treatment if necessary.
• If you smoke, quit. Ask family members to quit smoking, too.
• Don’t allow smoking in your home.
• Be sure no one smokes at your child’s day care center.
• Don’t use wood burning stoves, fireplaces, or kerosene heaters to heat your home.
• Avoid perfumes and perfumed products such as talcum powder, candles, and hairspray.
• Reduce strong cooking odors by using an exhaust fan and opening windows when you cook.
• Don’t stay in your home, school, or work site if it’s being painted.
• If gas fumes irritate your airways, have someone else
pump your gas for you.
• If you can’t get rid of irritants in the ways described above, use an indoor air-cleaning device. A HEPA (high efficiency particulate air) purifier is a good one to try.
The best and most efficient way to protect yourself from what triggers your asthma is to identify your triggers and avoid them as much as possible. The most common triggers for asthma sufferers include tobacco smoke, pet dander, viral illnesses and seasonal allergies. The first thing is to stop smoking and have all family members counseled on the benefits of smoking cessation. Then, gradually work to identify as many of your individual triggers as possible and adjust your lifestyle accordingly. This may include starting an allergy medicine during peak allergy season, treating colds and having certain pets live with another relative.
This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.