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Avoiding asthma triggers

Avoiding asthma triggers

People with asthma have very sensitive airways. When their airways are irritated, they become swollen, tighten up and make more mucus. This is what makes asthma symptoms get worse. One way to keep asthma under control is to avoid things that trigger airway irritation. You or your child might not be affected by all of the triggers on this list.

Common asthma triggers and how to avoid them

Ginger Mary, a pediatric nurse practitioner and certified asthma educator at CHoR, talks with Jessica Noll from WTVR CBS 6.



Know the common triggers and what you should do to avoid them

Tobacco and other smoke

  • Do not smoke. Smoke makes asthma worse.
  • Do not let anyone smoke in the house or car.
  • Do not use wood-burning stoves, fireplaces or kerosene heaters.

Strong odors and sprays

  • Do not use perfume and perfumed cosmetics.
  • Do not use air fresheners, scented candles or incense.
  • Use non-scented household cleaning products.
  • Reduce strong cooking odors (especially frying). Use an exhaust fan and open windows.
  • Do not stay in your home while it is being painted.
  • Stay indoors when the air pollution level is high.

Colds and infections

  • Avoid people with colds or the flu if possible.
  • Wash hands frequently or use a hand sanitizer in the winter.
  • The whole family should get a flu shot.


  • Make a medicine plan with your doctor that lets you exercise without symptoms.
  • If exercise is still a trigger, take your rescue medicine 15 minutes before exercising.
  • Warm up before and cool down after exercising.


  • Wear a scarf over your mouth and nose in cold weather.
  • Be aware, a change in weather or a storm coming through can trigger asthma.

Extremes of emotions

  • Laughing, screaming or crying may trigger coughing or wheezing.
  • Asthma symptoms may worsen with anxiety – try to find ways to relax.

Allergies cause airway irritation. Strong exposure to something you are allergic to may trigger your asthma. Know the common allergy triggers and what you should do to avoid them:

Animal dander

  • Keep animals outside. If that is not possible, keep animals away from the bedroom and off of furniture.
  • Try to stay away from other homes with pets.
  • Take rescue medicine before going places where there are animals.
  • Choose a pet without fur or feathers, such as a fish or a snake.
  • Avoid products with feathers such as pillows and comforters.


  • Use cockroach traps.
  • If insecticides are used, air out the home for a few hours after spraying.


  • Reduce rugs, stuffed toys and carpets in bedrooms and living areas.
  • Use shades or washable curtains.
  • Put special allergy covers on mattresses and pillows.
  • Use washable blankets and bedspreads.
  • Use hypoallergenic pillows.
  • Do not use humidifiers.

Indoor molds

  • Keep bathrooms, kitchens and basements well-ventilated.
  • Clean bathrooms, kitchens and basements regularly.
  • Do not use humidifiers.
  • Use dehumidifiers for damp basement areas.
  • Use diluted bleach to clean mold when you see it.

Outdoor pollens and molds

  • Stay indoors during the midday and afternoon when the pollen count is high.
  • Use air conditioning.
  • Keep windows closed during seasons when pollen and mold are highest.
  • Avoid wet leaves and garden debris that get moldy.

Meet the team

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Kathleen Bowden, MSW, AE-C
Kathleen Bowden MSW, AE-C Pulmonary medicine
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Ginger A Mary, DNP, CPNP-PC, AE-C
Ginger Mary DNP, CPNP-PC, AE-C Pulmonary medicine
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Michael S Schechter, MD, MPH
Michael Schechter MD, MPH Pulmonary medicine
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