Identifying your asthma triggers, and then working to reduce your contact with them, is an essential step in asthma control. Asthma triggers are closely related to allergy triggers, provided your asthma is allergic in nature, which most people’s is. But some triggers are uniquely connected only with asthma, and these things are referred to as irritants, rather than allergens. You’re not allergic to them, but they DO trigger asthma symptoms if you’re sensitive to them.
Common Household Asthma Triggers
Some of the more common asthma triggers people with allergic asthma need to be aware of in the home include:
Dust. Actually, it’s not the dust itself you react to. It’s tiny organisms that live in and feed on dust, called dust mites. Their wastes can trigger allergic asthma symptoms.
Animal dander, urine & saliva. Household pets tend to leave lots of dander (tiny dead skin flakes), urine and saliva all through our home environments, which can also trigger asthma symptoms in sensitive people.
Mold. Mold spores can be found in damp, dark areas, such as kitchens, bathrooms, cellars and attics. They can also be found in potting soil in potted plants.
Why You Should Asthma Proof Your Home
Avoiding these common home asthma triggers can be a real challenge. Some might even say it’s impossible But the efforts you work for can really pay off in terms of greater asthma control.
While the asthma medicines available today usually work great in controlling asthma symptoms, they’ll have a hard time doing their job if you don’t make any changes in your environment at all.
Here’s something else to think about… Although taking asthma medicine may seem like a magic potion of sorts, the truth is that all medications have side effects, because they are a foreign substance you are taking into your body’s inner workings. The side effects with asthma medicines are usually mild and often go away in time. But still, wouldn’t it be nice to be able to take as little medicine as possible?
The way to achieve that and to enhance your degree of asthma control is to reduce your exposure to your asthma triggers as much as you possibly can.
Steps to Take
There are some concrete steps you can always take that will reap solid benefits for you in avoiding your triggers. It may not work 100 percent of the time, but isn’t even a 75 percent improvement better than what happens if you do nothing at all?
1. Swap hardwood or tile floors for carpeting. Dust mites and animal dander can mount up quickly in carpeting. And it can be hard, even with daily vacuuming to get rid of all of them. So bare floors are much better for people with asthma. You can use a few throw rugs if you need to, for warmth.
2. Favor wood or leather furniture over upholstered furniture. Again, dust mites and pet dander will lodge in your furniture if you provide the environment. If you must have this type, then vacuum it frequently, and keep pets off it.
3. Keep pets out of the bedroom. Being a pet lover myself, I understand if you don’t want to get rid of your pet. But you should never let your pet sleep on the bed, where you’ll spend up to a third of every day. Keep them out of the bedroom altogether if you can bear it, or at the least, off your bed.
4. Wash bed linens, including blankets and bedspreads, weekly in hot water. Only hot water will get rid of dust mites completely. It might not be energy efficient, but it is the healthy approach. Also, encase pillows and mattresses in allergy-proof covers (with zippered closings).
5. Swap your potted plants for artificial plants and silk flowers. Soil can harbor mold spores, so if you’re sensitive to mold, potten plants aren’t the best idea for you.
6. Keep your house as dust free and clean as you can. Vacuum floors and furniture at least weekly with a vacuum equipped with a HEPA filter. Change out furnace filters monthly. Change the water in humidifiers and dehumidifiers. Get rid of dust traps such as knickknacks, ceiling fans and bookshelves.
7. Reduce perfumes and scents. Strong odors and chemical fumes aren’t allergens, but they can irritate already sensitive asthma airways. Perfumed candles and air fresheners can act as triggers. So can strong fumes from cleaning chemicals. Opt for unscented varieties whenever you can.
So, work this year to eliminate as many of your asthma triggers as you can in your home. Clear the air, simplify your life and strive for an asthma proof environment. Before you know it, you’ll be feeling a whole lot better and taking less medicine – and that means an improvement in your quality of life!
Kathi is an experienced consumer health education writer, with a prior career in nursing that spanned more than 30 years — much of it in the field of home health care. Over the past 15 years, she’s been an avid contributor for a number of consumer health websites, specializing in asthma, allergy, and COPD. She writes not only as a healthcare professional, but also as a lifelong sufferer of severe allergies and mild asthma, and as a caregiver for her mother with COPD.