Your Allergies on Alert

The top 10 triggers.

Difficulty breathing, frequent coughing, shortness of breath, wheezing.

All symptoms of asthma, these problems can be an occasional nuisance for some. For others, they can be a daily problem or even life threatening. During an asthma attack, the airways in the lungs become narrow and inflamed. Excess mucous is produced, causing a cough, and the amount of airflow is reduced, making breathing difficult. While there’s no cure for asthma, there are ways to control its symptoms. Asthma attacks are often caused by allergens or asthma “triggers”.

Knowing what elicits an attack and avoiding triggers will lessen the frequency and severity of an asthma attack.


Your pet may be your best friend. He may be a beloved part of your family. But if you or a family member has asthma that’s triggered by pets, it may be time for Fluffy to find another home. Approximately 30 percent of people with asthma are allergic to pet dander (the dead skin cells shed by warm-blooded animals), not pet fur. Therefore, cutting your pets’ fur won’t help.

If you can’t part with your four-legged or winged pal, at least keep him out of the person’s bedroom who has asthma. Bathe your pet weekly, wash your hands after petting him, vacuum your carpets, and mop your floors regularly.

Asthma doesn’t seem to bother me any more unless I’m around cigars or dogs. The thing that would bother me most would be a dog smoking a cigar. –Steve Allen


Unhealthy for everyone exposed, tobacco smoke is especially harmful to those with asthma. If you or a family member has asthma, it’s time to quit the habit. Secondhand smoke irritates the linings of the lung’s airways, making it a common trigger for asthma attacks. So if you have asthma, don’t let people smoke in your home or car.

Besides tobacco smoke, smoke from burning wood or grass can also be responsible for triggering asthmatic symptoms. Therefore, those with asthma should avoid campfires, brush fires, fires in fireplaces, and wood-burning stoves.


A third common trigger for asthma is breathing in mold spores. Mold grows best in moist, warm conditions. To keep your home free from mold, use a dehumidifier or air conditioner (in the warm months) to keep the humidity below 50 percent. Leaky pipes or damp basements can lead to the growth of mold, so keep these under control. And if you have indoor plants, take heed, as another source of indoor mold is the potting soil found in indoor plants.

Dust Mites

An amazing 9 out of 10 people with asthma are allergic to dust mites. Unfortunately, these tiny critters are everywhere, and in almost every home. To keep them at bay, use protective covers on your mattress and pillows, avoid down comforters and pillows, limit the number of stuffed animals and clutter in the bedroom, and regularly wash blankets and linens in hot water.

You can add an extra layer of protection against dust mites by properly arming the tools in your home. Use a HEPA filter in your vacuum to trap small particles and use allergen filters for your air return vent.

Air Pollution

If the air quality outside is low, it may be best to stay inside for the day. Outdoor pollution from car exhaust and factories can trigger an asthma attack. So before heading out for the day, check your local air-quality forecast.


It may be time to call the exterminator if you notice cockroaches or mice around your house. Not only are they nasty and destructive to your home, but the droppings left by these critters can trigger an asthma attack. Keep your home free from crumbs by vacuuming or sweeping the floor every couple days. Also, clean up after each meal and use mousetraps or roach traps to eliminate unwanted pests.

The Weather

As if the list isn’t long enough already, bad weather can bring on asthma issues as well. Many people suffer asthmatic symptoms during thunderstorms or periods of high humidity. Others are affected when they breathe in cold, dry air in the winter. Knowing what weather conditions are most likely to affect you negatively helps you get your symptoms under control.

The List Goes On

Additional triggers for asthma attacks include medical conditions such as the flu, cold viruses, respiratory viruses, sinus infections, and acid reflux. Others are affected by physical exercise, certain medications (aspirin, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs), foods, strong fragrances, strong emotions, stress, or pollen.

If you or someone in your family suffers from asthma, it is important to identify and steer clear of those triggers that cause or worsen your symptoms.

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