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Breathe a Little Easier

Avoid your allergic asthma triggers

Asthma image

Make life with allergic asthma a little easier by avoiding the things you’re allergic to. Sound like common sense? Sure it does. Unfortunately, trying to put this advice into practice in your everyday life is not always practical. For example, in order to completely avoid ragweed pollen, you couldn’t go outdoors from August to November. There are, however, a few steps you can take that are more realistic.

The following household allergens are well-known triggers of coughing, wheezing, tightening of the chest, and other symptoms of allergic asthma. To help lessen the allergic reactions that cause your asthma symptoms, familiarize yourself with the following strategies for avoiding these allergens.

Cockroach feces and saliva are both allergens and can trigger asthma symptoms in some people with allergic asthma. Because cockroaches are often prevalent in many inner-city areas, their allergens play a significant role in contributing to the number of people with asthma.

To help lessen the allergic reactions that cause your asthma symptoms, familiarize yourself with strategies for avoiding household allergens.

To help rid your home of cockroaches, limit where you eat to avoid spreading food and crumbs around the house, and always keep food out of bedrooms. Never leave food out – keep all food and garbage in closed containers. Wash the kitchen floor and countertops at least once a week. Repair leaky faucets and drainpipes to eliminate water sources that attract these pests. Close up all openings around the house that might allow cockroaches to enter, and reduce the number of cockroaches in your home by using environmentally safe pesticides and bait stations.

Dust Mites
Every home has dust mites. They feed on skin flakes and are found in mattresses, pillows, carpets, upholstered furniture, bedcovers, clothes, stuffed toys, and fabric. Both the body parts and feces of dust mites can trigger asthma in individuals with an allergic reaction to dust mites.

To reduce dust mite exposure, encase your mattress and pillows in dust-proof or allergen-impermeable covers. Wash all bedding and blankets once a week in hot water (at least 130 degrees Fahrenheit) to kill dust mites. Replace wool or feathered bedding with synthetic materials, and make sure all stuffed animals are washable. If possible, replace wall-to-wall carpets in bedrooms with bare floors (linoleum, tile, or wood). Use a damp mop or rag to remove dust from surfaces. Never use a dry cloth, which just stirs up mite allergens. Use a dehumidifier or air conditioner to maintain relative humidity at 50 percent or below, and use a vacuum cleaner with either a double-layered microfilter bag or a high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter to trap allergens that pass through a vacuum’s exhaust.

Molds can grow on virtually anything when moisture is present. Outdoors, many molds live in soil or on leaves, wood, and other plant debris. Indoors, they can grow on wood, paper, carpet, and food. Molds produce tiny spores to reproduce. These spores become airborne easily. Any time moisture accumulates indoors (through a damp basement, leaky faucet, shower stall), mold growth will often occur, particularly if the excess moisture goes unnoticed or unaddressed. Asthma episodes can be triggered in individuals with an allergic reaction to mold.

To eliminate mold in your home, use a dehumidifier or air conditioner to maintain relative humidity below 50 percent, and keep temperatures cool. Vent clothes dryers and bathrooms to the outside so that moisture does not accumulate in your home. Check faucets, pipes, and ductwork for leaks. After you turn on air conditioners in your home or car, leave the room or drive with the windows open for several minutes to allow mold spores to disperse. To limit exposure to mold outdoors, remove decaying debris from the yard, roof, and gutters, and avoid raking leaves, mowing lawns, and working with peat, mulch, hay, or dead wood. If you must do yard work, wear a mask and avoid working on hot, humid days.

Animal Dander
Asthma can be triggered by animal urine, feces, saliva, hair, or dander (skin flakes). But you don’t have to have pets in your house or visit places where animals are kept in order to be exposed to their allergens. Interestingly enough, animal allergens are often detected in places where no animals are housed. The allergens may have been carried unwittingly into a place by people who own or have been around animals.

If you are allergic to animal dander, you should remove all pets from your home if possible. If it is not possible to remove pets, keep them confined to areas without carpets or upholstered furniture and out of bedrooms. When near any rodents (mice, hamsters, guinea pigs, squirrels), wear a dust mask and gloves. Wash your hands and clean your clothes after playing with any animals – this will help remove allergens. When possible, ask someone else to clean soiled litter cages.


Source: Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America,

This article was originally published in Coping® with Allergies & Asthma magazine, September/October 2010.