9 Common Asthma Triggers and How to Fight Them

Any number of things in the home can trigger an asthma attack or discomfort, forcing suffers to turn to inhalers or other medications for relief. But the best “treatment” for asthma sufferers is prevention, and the Environmental Protection Agency has identified nine common asthma triggers in the home and suggestions for how to combat them.

  1. Dust Mites – These tiny bugs are in every home, but without proper care they can irritate asthma sufferers. Washing bedding in hot water at least once per week and using dust proof covers on pillows and mattresses can help to alleviate allergy and asthma symptoms. Vacuuming carpets, drapes and upholstered furniture once a week using a HEPA vacuum cleaner will also cut down on dust mites.
  2. Mold – Molds love damp environments, unfortunately for many asthma sufferers mold can trigger an attack. Using soap and water to clean mold off of hard surfaces.  In the bathroom, turn on exhaust fans or open a window when showering. Fix any leaks as soon as possible and dry any damp or wet things within 24 to 48 hours. Try to maintain indoor humidity levels between 30 and 50 percent.
  3. Cockroaches and pests –Nasty pests like cockroaches are common in urban areas an in the southern United States and their body parts and droppings can trigger symptoms in asthma sufferers. Keeping counters, sinks, tables and floors free of clutter can help to deter them from congregating. Clean dishes, spills and crumbs right away. Store food in airtight containers and seal all cracks around cabinets.
  4. Pets – Cats, dogs, hamsters and other family pets can, unfortunately, trigger asthma symptoms. For many, simply keeping the pet out of certain areas, such as upholstered furniture or bedrooms, can be sufficient. Otherwise, the primary line of defense is vigilant vacuuming of carpets, drapes and upholstered furniture. Using a special pet hair attachment will make the job easier, as will a pet grooming tool that helps reduce the amount of hair and dander that lingers about.
  5. Nitrogen Dioxide – NO2 is an odorless gas that can irritate the eyes, nose and throat and cause shortness of breath. Appliances in your home that burn gas, kerosene and wood are the most likely sources of NO2. When cooking on a gas burning stove or oven make sure to use a vent connected to the outdoors and never use the stove for heating. If using an unvented gas or kerosene space heater open a window for ventilation.
  6. Outdoor Air Pollution – Between pollen and pollution, going outdoors at the wrong time of year or time of day can be enough to trigger an attack. Asthma sufferers should watch the daily air quality indexes and plan their daily schedules around times when pollutants should be at their lowest. Close windows on high pollen days and use an air conditioner to filter it before it enters the home can also help. We also recommend a HEPA air purifier to clean the inside air of pollen and other particulates.
  7. Chemical Irritants – Chemical paints, cleaners, adhesives, pesticides, cosmetics, or air fresheners can irritate asthma sufferers or trigger an attack. Following all instructions on product labels and opening windows when using chemicals can help to alleviate symptoms.
  8. Secondhand Smoke –Secondhand smoke can trigger an asthma attack and even make symptoms worse over time. If there are smokers in your household, don’t let them smoke around asthmatics. Ideally, any smoking should be outside the home completely.
  9. Wood Smoke – Smoke from wood-burning stoves and fireplaces contain a mixture of harmful gases and small particles that can cause asthma attacks. To help reduce smoke, be sure the wood that has been dried completely. Have your stove or chimney professionally inspected at least once every year to be sure it is working correctly and free gaps, cracks and dangerous creosote.

Coping with Spring Allergies

pollenIt looks like some of us, at least, can stop asking “Will Spring ever get here?” For the rest of us, we can take comfort in looking at a calendar that says “April” and knowing it must get here pretty soon. Unfortunately for too many of us, when Spring returns, so does hay fever.

Hay fever allergies, aka seasonal allergic rhinitis, is marked by sneezing, congestion and a runny nose . the symptoms are similar to those of a cold, but where a cold can last a few days to a couple of weeks, hay fever can go on for months. In fact, for many sufferers, once it starts in the spring, it doesn’t end until the first hard frost of winter.

Pollen is the culprit here, from trees, weeds and various grasses. Unfortunately, short of staying indoors with the windows closed tight and a constantly running air conditioner and air purifier, there’s not much sufferers can do to avoid pollen. Even if you don’t have trees or plants in or near your home, pollen grains will hitch a ride on the wind and find their way to you.

Mind the Pollen Count

The pollen count measures the concentration of all the pollen the air in a certain area at a specific time. The actual measure is grains of pollen per cubic meter of air collected over a 24-hour period. Local weather reports and any number of Web sites and apps can give you the number. While pollen counts will change throughout the day, they still can help decide when it may be better to stay inside.

Regardless of the count, as a general rule of thumb pollen counts are higher during the early morning hours. It’s best to avoid the outdoors between 5-10 a.m., saving your outdoor activities for late afternoon. Warm, breezy days also increase pollen counts, but rain washes the grains out of the air, so going out after a heavy rain can be a good choice.

Treating Pollen Allergies

If you’re going to treat your symptoms yourself, you probably shouldn’t without first seeing a physician. Especially if you’re just beginning to feel the effects of allergies or if those affects are severe, it’s a good idea to find out exactly what is causing the allergy before trying to treat it.

While it could be just pollen, you also could have developed allergies to mold or dust or even animals. These may not by themselves be very serious, but you also could be starting to develop asthma. Allergies can be really annoying, but asthma can be deadly if not treated properly. It’s not something  you want to take chances with.

If you decide to forego the trip to the doctor, you can treat hay fever yourself with any number of over-the-counter medications. Most popular have been antihistamines, but those can cause drowsiness. The ones that don’t work fine for many people, but have been said to be less effective for those with serious allergies. Nasal decongestants help with stuffiness, but they can have the opposite side effect, causing restlessness or nervousness .

Nasal corticosteroid sprays are considered more effective than antihistamines and decongestants, and don’t have their drowsiness/restlessness side effects. They don’t start working immediately, though, and have their own set of side effects to consider and watch out for before committing to long-term use. The choice also is limited if you want something without a prescription. Only one brand currently is available over the counter.