Your home is your safe haven from weather, outside critters, and the rest of the world. If you have asthma, however, it may seem like nowhere is safe when it comes to warding off asthma attacks. That’s because asthma attack triggers can take on many forms—and you can be exposed to them whether you’re outside on a warm spring day, or safe at home nestled in your bed.
Even though you may be surrounded by asthma attack triggers, you do have some control over them. While some outside triggers may be harder to avoid, such as air pollution or pollen, irritants in your home can be managed.
Asthma attack triggers are different for everyone, but knowing yours can help ward off attacks. Although asthma can never be fully cured, you can take an active role in controlling symptoms and preventing flare-ups.
Here are some common asthma attack triggers in your home and how to avoid them:
1. Cockroaches + their droppings
Alive or dead, cockroaches (and their poop) can trigger asthma attacks and allergic reactions. If you spot any evidence of cockroaches, here’s how to get rid of them:
Eliminate their access to food and water by cleaning up your food and dishes immediately after you eat.
Vacuum or sweep all rooms where food is consumed every two or three days.
Use roach traps help control the number of cockroaches in your home.
If you see roach droppings (little brown specks on the counter or walls), clean them immediately.
Call an exterminator if cockroaches become unmanageable.
2. Furry friends
Pet fur isn’t an asthma trigger, but pet dander (dry skin flakes and saliva) may be. Your pet may also be bringing outdoor triggers indoors—mold and pollen cling to fur. If you can’t bear to find your pet a new home, follow these tips:
Keep buddy out of the bedroom.
Bathe your pet weekly.
Limit the time your pet spends indoors.
Vacuum your home often, at least every few days, and mop hard floors at least weekly.
3. Tobacco smoke
Smoking and secondhand smoke is unhealthy for everyone—especially for people with asthma. (Learn more about how cigarette smoking damages the body.) If you have asthma and you smoke, it’s important that you quit. Here are strategies that may help you quit smoking.
4. Dust mites
A clean house goes a long way toward controlling asthma symptoms. Dust mites are tiny bugs that live in almost every home, and they love fabric. (Check out these gross facts about dust mites.) Here’s how to combat these dust-loving critters:
Vacuum and dust all areas of your home often to minimize exposure.
Use mattress covers and pillowcase covers as barriers from dust mites.
Avoid down-filled pillows and comforters.
Keep your bedroom clean of clutter and dust. (That means removing your teddy bear, too.)
5. Burning wood
Smoke from burning wood or plants—whether it’s from your fireplace, outdoor fire pit, or a wildfire—can make it hard to breathe. This type of smoke contains a mix of gasses and small particles that can trigger asthma attacks. If you can, avoid wood-burning fires in your home.
Mold spores can trigger asthma attacks, as well as other health issues. Mold grows and thrives in moist environments, so it’s important to control the humidity and moisture in your home. Here’s how to keep your home dry:
Go on a mold hunt. Mold can hide nearly anywhere so you may have to dig for evidence. Look in cupboards, under the sink, and in crevices for hidden mold growth.
Use a dehumidifier or air conditioner to help keep the humidity in your home low.
Get a tool called a hygrometer to check humidity levels, and make sure it reads no higher than 50 percent.
Fix water leaks. Dripping water lets mold grow behind walls and under floors.
If you find mold and want to tackle it yourself, use a specialty product and follow the directions carefully. (Don’t mix ammonia or any detergent containing ammonia with bleach. The combination forms a poisonous gas.)
When cleaning mold, wear an air filter mask, goggles, and non-porous gloves. Be sure to shower afterwards and wash your clothes in hot water.
For a substantial mold infestation, call in the professionals. You may need to dispose of carpet and other hard-to-clean surfaces.
Controlling Asthma Attacks: When to See a Doctor
The goal of controlling your asthma is to achieve better health and prevent attacks. You can control your asthma by knowing the warning signs of an attack, staying away from triggers, and following the advice of your healthcare provider. However, even well-managed asthma can get out of control. If you have any of the following symptoms, call a doctor right away:
You feel dizzy or faint
You have trouble doing everyday activities
You have a cough that won’t go away
Your lips or nails are turning blue
Or you’re wheezing.