Skip to Primary Navigation Skip to Site Navigation Skip to Main Content All Site Map

Tackle Top Asthma Triggers

One in 12 Americans has asthma, and the numbers are growing every year.

One in 12 Americans has asthma, and the numbers are growing every year*. Asthma leads to billions of dollars in medical costs, along with missed days of school or work and other serious health complications. Although medical care is essential for managing asthma, prevention also plays an important role. By being aware of common asthma triggers in the home, you can take steps to reduce or avoid exposure to triggers for family and friends affected by asthma.

Tackle Top Asthma Triggers

What Is an Asthma Trigger?
Asthma is a disease that causes swelling and inflammation of the airways. When swelling occurs, less air is able to get through to your lungs, which can cause coughing, wheezing and difficulty breathing. Asthma triggers are substances or environmental conditions that can set off, or trigger, asthma symptoms.

What Substances or Environmental Factors Trigger Asthma?
Asthma triggers are unique to the individual. What sets off a severe response in one person may not affect another at all. Being aware of the specific triggers that affect you or a loved one can help you avoid exposure and enable you to better manage the disease. Although every asthmatic responds differently to them, asthma triggers can be broadly grouped into 10 categories**: Medical conditions; smoke; weather, pollen and air pollution; food and medicine; animals; pests; mold; exercise; stress; and strong odors.

Tackling the Top Five Indoor Asthma Triggers
Because most people spend the greater part of their time indoors, allergens and substances that affect indoor air quality are a big concern to people with asthma.

Mold. A common asthma trigger, it's best to eliminate the warm, moist conditions that allow mold spores to thrive by running a dehumidifier, especially in the basement, and using the bathroom exhaust fan while you shower. Scour away any visible mold wherever you find it with warm, soapy water and a scrub brush.

Smoke. Toasting marshmallows over a crackling campfire is great fun, but wood smoke can be a danger for asthmatics. Likewise, fireplace smoke and tobacco smoke are common triggers. Avoid bars and restaurants that allow smoking and relax in front of a gas-powered fireplace rather than the wood-burning version. Secondhand smoke can worsen asthma symptoms, so if you live with a smoker, take steps to avoid all unnecessary exposure.

Pests. Research shows a strong link between cockroaches and asthma***. The actual symptom-inducing allergen comes from the excrement and debris of decomposing cockroaches, which are just the right size particles to become airborne. Similar allergens come from dust mites and rodents, such as mice and rats. Reduce your exposure by using allergen-proof pillow and mattress covers, vacuuming, dusting your home and washing your bedding at least once a week.

Animals. A dog may be man's best friend, but the dander and saliva of a dog can trigger asthma symptoms. The same is true for cats, rabbits, guinea pigs, ferrets and other furry friends that are common household pets. Reduce your exposure to animal dander by keeping pets off the bed and out of areas where you spend the most time. Install a Filtrete Allergen Defense furnace filter from 3M to trap particles that affect indoor air quality, such as airborne pet dander, dust mites and mold spores.

Strong Odors. Many cleaning products, personal care items, candles and scent diffusers contain fragrance chemicals that can irritate the airways and trigger asthma symptoms. Whenever possible, select fragrance-free products and avoid the use of air fresheners and similar odor-reducing products. Rather than mask unpleasant odors, try to eliminate odor-producing pollutants at the source. A Filtrete Odor Reduction furnace filter from 3M can noticeably freshen your indoor air by trapping odor-producing particles from pets, cooking, mildew and smoke.

Understanding your asthma triggers and taking steps to reduce or eliminate your exposure to them is an important part of proactively managing your disease. By tackling your top asthma triggers, you can breathe easier knowing that you're taking charge of your good health.

* National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases
** American Lung Association
*** Partners Healthcare Asthma Center
**** WebMD, "Asthma, Stress, and Anxiety: A Risky Cycle"