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Get Ready for Indoor Winter Living with Asthma

Watch Out for These Common Asthma Triggers

Asthma image

Triggers are a part of everyday life. Asthma attacks can be triggered by things like mold growing in your bathroom or tiny dust mites that live in blankets, pillows, or your child’s stuffed animals. Here’s a breakdown of common asthma triggers and what you can do to get rid of them.

This icky asthma trigger grows on damp things such as shower curtains, bath items, tubs, basins, and tiles. If you see mold, clean it up with soap and wa­ter. To prevent mold growth, you need to control the moisture in your home. Use exhaust fans in the bathroom when showering and in the kitchen when cooking or washing dishes. Fix leaky plumbing or other sources of water as soon as possible. Dry damp or wet items within one to two days to keep mold from growing.

Dust Mites
These are tiny bugs you can’t see with the naked eye. They live in sheets, blankets, pillows, mattresses, soft furniture, carpets, and stuffed toys. To rid your home of these pesky asthma triggers, wash bed sheets and blankets once a week. Use dust-proof covers on pillows and mattresses. Vacuum carpets, rugs, and furniture often. And wash stuffed toys regularly.

Secondhand Smoke
Asthma can be triggered by the smoke from the burning end of a cigarette, pipe, or cigar, or the smoke breathed out by a smoker. Steer clear of secondhand smoke whenever possible. Choose not to smoke in your home or car, and don’t allow others to do so either.

The chemical irritants found in some products in your home may make asthma worse.

Wood Smoke
Smoke from wood-burning stoves and fireplaces contains a mixture of harmful gases and small particles. Breathing in these small particles can cause asthma attacks and severe bronchitis, aggravate heart and lung disease, and increase the likelihood of respiratory illnesses. To help reduce smoke, make sure to burn dry wood that has been split, stacked, covered, and stored for at least six months. Never burn garbage, plastics, or pressure-treated wood. Have your stove and chimney inspected every year by a certified pro­fessional to make sure there are no gaps, cracks, or unwanted drafts, and to re­move dangerous creosote build-up. If possible, replace your old wood stove with a new, cleaner heating appliance. Consider using a HEPA filter in the same room as your stove or fireplace. Studies indicate that HEPA filters can reduce indoor particle pollution by 60 percent.

Cockroaches and Other Pests
Asthma attacks can be triggered by cockroaches and other pests, such as mice. To keep these pests out of your home, make sure your counters, sinks, tables, and floors are always kept clean. Wash dishes and clean up crumbs and spills immediately. Store food in air-tight containers, and keep your trash cans covered.

Cats and Dogs
Warm-blooded ani­mals may trigger asthma attacks. Keep pets outside if possible. If you do have pets inside, keep them out of the bedroom and off the furniture. Vacuum carpets and furniture often to reduce the amount of pet dander (small flakes of shed skin) in your home.

Nitrogen Dioxide
This is an odor­less gas that can irritate your eyes, nose, and throat and may cause shortness of breath. This gas can come from using appliances that burn fuels (such as gas) and kerosene. If possible, use fuel-burning appliances that are vented outside, and always follow the manu­facturer’s instructions on how to use these appliances. Never use gas stoves to keep you warm or heat your home. If you have an exhaust fan, use it when you cook. If you have an unvented ker­osene or gas space heater, use the proper fuel and make sure the heater is adjusted correctly. Open a window slightly or turn on an exhaust fan when using these types of heaters.

Chemical Irritants
The chemical irritants found in some products in your home, such as cleaners, paints, adhesives, pesticides, cosmetics, and air freshen­ers, may make asthma worse. If certain products irritate your or your child’s asthma, use these products less often and make sure the asthmatic person is not around when you do use them. You may also consider trying alternative non-irritating products. If you must use these products, try to make sure that windows or doors are open and that you use an exhaust fan. In addition, take great care to follow the instructions on the label.


If you or your child has asthma, or if you think your child may have asthma, make an appoint­ment with a doctor. Your doctor will work with you to create an asthma action plan that will help you learn to prevent asthma attacks.

Source: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency,

This article was originally published in Coping® with Allergies & Asthma magazine, Winter 2013-2014.