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Identifying and Avoiding Your Asthma Triggers

Decreasing Exposure to Asthma Triggers Is an Important Part of Your Treatment


Updated September 05, 2009

Indoor asthma triggers can instigate the process of increased inflammation in your airways, causing worsening asthma symptoms. It is important to know what these asthma triggers are and how you can work to prevent them.

1. Environmental Tobacco Smoke (ETS)

Photo © Wikipedia user Kauczuk

You should not smoke in your home or allow anyone else to. For some people, the smell of tobacco smoke alone may trigger the immune response that begins the process of inflammation that results in runny nose, watery eyes, sinus congestion, lower peak flows, wheezing and shortness of breath.

Unfortunately, nearly 25% of asthmatics are current smokers and anywhere from 200,000 to 1 million children have their asthma worsened by environmental tobacco smoke.

2. Animal Dander

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No matter what your favorite pet is - dog, cat, bird, hamster or guinea pig -- they all shed dander that can worsen allergies and asthma. Despite what you may have heard, there really is no true hypo-allergenic pet, but some are "low allergy." Additionally, it is a myth that short-haired animals cause less allergy and asthma problems compared to more long-haired animals. This is because it is not the hair, but the dander or skin scales that stimulate the allergic or immune system reaction.

3. Dust Mites

Photo © American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology

Dust mites are tiny insects, related to ticks and spiders, that are invisible to the human eye and found in nearly every home in the United States. Dust mites feed on skin flakes and dust in your home. They can be found commonly on mattresses, pillows, carpets, and upholstered furniture. Both dust mite pieces and dust mite droppings are allergens that travel through air and can trigger the allergic cascade and worsen asthma.

4. Cockroaches

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Commonly found throughout the Southern United States and in most large metropolitan areas, cockroaches can be very difficult to avoid. Cockroach droppings and saliva are common triggers of asthma symptoms in many people. Because these pests are difficult to avoid, it is essential to learn control mechanisms.

5. Molds

Photo © Joe Raedle/ Getty Images

Molds are fungi that survive on plant and animal matter and will grow most anywhere moisture is present. Molds produce tiny spores that can travel through the air. If the spores land on a moist surface they will begin to grow. Inhaling the mold spores can lead to an asthma attack. Molds will cause the most problems in homes with high humidity, standing water, or water damage.

6. Sources:

National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. Accessed: January 1, 2009. Expert Panel Report 3 (EPR3): Guidelines for the Diagnosis and Management of Asthma

Tips to Remember. American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology. Indoor Allergens Accessed March 31, 2009.

Consumer Information. Environmental Protection Agency. Accessed March 30, 2009. Indoor Environmental Asthma Triggers

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