Asthma Triggers :: Nationwide Children's Hospital, Columbus, Ohio

Asthma Triggers

Many things can start an asthma flare-up. They are called triggers. Know your asthma triggers and avoid them.

Dust mites
Tiny dust mites live in pillows, stuffed animals. mattresses, carpets, and furniture cushions.

  • Keep mattress, box springs, and all pillows in dust mite-proof covers.
  • Wash your sheets, even brightly colored children’s sheets and blankets, each week in very hot water.
  • Remove stuffed toys from the bedroom or wash them weekly in hot water.
  • Stay out of rooms that are being vacuumed or dusted.
  • If possible, take rugs or carpets out of the bedroom.
  • Do not use humidifiers inside the bedroom.

Pets

  • Do not have pets with fur or feathers in your bedroom or home.

Cockroaches

  • Kill all the bugs in the entire building. Make sure you do not re-enter until all fumes and smells are completely gone.
  • Don’t keep food in the bedrooms.
  • Keep food and garbage sealed.

Mold

  • Fix leaky faucets and pipes.
  • Clean moldy surfaces with bleach in water (1 part bleach to 10 parts water).
  • Clean shower curtains.

Indoor/Outdoor Pollutants and Irritants

  • Avoid perfume, talcum powder, hair spray, and scented cleaning products.
  • Avoid incense, scented candles, fireplaces, wood burning stoves, kerosene heaters, and outdoor fire pits.

Weather

  • On cold days, cover your nose and mouth with a scarf or wear a turtleneck.
  • On hot humid days, stay inside in air conditioning, especially during the afternoon hours.
  • Plan any outdoor activities for the morning.

Pollen

  • Stay inside and keep windows closed when pollen levels are high.
  • Remove clothing after spending time outdoors.
  • Bathe or wash your child’s hair before going to bed.
  • Be sure your child takes the allergy medicine every day.

Air Quality

  • Be aware of your child’s symptoms on air quality alert days

Exercise
Exercise is important for everyone, even those with asthma. Asthma should NOT keep your child from playing sports or being active.

  • Ask the doctor about taking asthma medicine before play or exercise.
  • Always take rescue medicine while exercising. Use it right away if symptoms develop.

Colds, flu or infections
Be sure your child:

  • Avoids people with colds.
  • Gets a flu shot every year.
  • Washes hands frequently.
  • Doesn’t touch their face.
  • Takes controller medicine, as directed, every day even if feeling well.

Stress
Teach your child:

  • To stay calm and breathe slowly.
  • Focus on things that keep him or her calm or happy.
  • Keep your bedroom a “safe haven.”

Secondhand and Third-hand Smoke Exposure

Secondhand Smoke:

  • Secondhand smoke is what you breathe in when you are around a smoker. It is the smoke the smoker breathes out and the smoke that comes from the burning end of a cigarette, cigar or pipe. It contains more than 4,000 chemicals.
  • Exposure to secondhand smoke makes asthma worse. It can cause more asthma episodes.
  • Don’t smoke around your child. Don’t let others smoke around your child.
  • Don’t allow smoking in the house or car, even when no one else is present. The harmful chemicals from tobacco products linger and can still cause problems for anyone with asthma.

Third-hand Smoke:

  • Third-hand smoke is the nicotine residue. It stays on furniture, walls, and carpeting after a cigarette has been smoked in a room or car.
  • Third-hand smoke clings to hair, skin, clothes, furniture, drapes, walls, bedding, carpets, dust, vehicles and other surfaces, even long after smoking has stopped. When infants, children and nonsmoking adults inhale, ingest or touch substances containing third-hand smoke, they may be at risk of tobacco-related health problems, such as asthma.

What You Can Do:

  • Make every effort to stop smoking, even if you could not stop before. Keep trying!
  • Do not let anyone smoke in your home. Smoke stays in the furniture cushions, carpets and curtains. It can continue to irritate your child.
  • If people must smoke, tell them to do it outside.
  • Never smoke in the car with your child or in the car your child normally rides in.
  • Avoid homes, restaurants, and other places where people smoke.
  • If other people care for your child, make sure they do not smoke.
  • Wash your hands and face after smoking, since smoke stays on your skin.
  • Wear a covering over your clothing (“smoking jacket”) when you smoke, even outside, since smoke sticks to clothes. Leave the covering outside before going indoors.

Here are some tips to help you stop smoking:

  • Talk to your doctor about medicines to help you quit smoking.
  • Create a quit plan and set a quit date.
  • Tell your friends and family members that you’re trying to quit so they can support you.
  • Enroll in a quit smoking class or program.
  • Find out what makes you want to smoke. Plan ways to avoid these times or think of ways you can deal with them without smoking.
  • Reduce your exposure to other smokers.
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