Asthma Triggers

Recognize and remove asthma triggers

Your child’s airways are very sensitive to objects, acts or events that do not normally bother people who don’t have asthma. They are called triggers, when you are near or come in contact with them, an asthma episode may start. Exposures to triggers build up over time. It may take one exposure to one trigger or numerous exposures to several triggers for asthma symptoms to begin. It depends on how sensitive the lungs are at the time of the exposure.

To understand this lets compare your lungs to a cup of water. The level of the water represents the twitchiness of the airways as the airways are exposed to numerous triggers over a period of time. The cup of water may already be half full because you are constantly around a certain trigger like cigarette smoke. You are having no symptoms but sensitivity of the lungs has increased as well as the swelling of the airways. Then over the next couple of weeks/days the lungs become exposed to numerous triggers. The twitchiness and swelling (inflammation) of the airways increases. The water level in the cup begins to rise. Then at some point the lungs are so twitchy and inflamed that the person begins to have asthma symptoms, and an episode begins. The cup of water overflows.

To make the airways less sensitive, you must reduce the exposure to triggers that the lungs are sensitive to. Everyone’s lungs are sensitive to different triggers and may take different amounts of exposure to triggers before an episode begins. Below is a list of triggers and steps you can take to reduce exposure to certain triggers. At the very least these changes should be made in the child’s bedroom. Although, it would be very helpful to make these changes in the entire house. Your healthcare professional will talk with you about steps to take to eliminate or reduce triggers in your child’s surroundings.



  • Remove carpets that are laid on concrete.
  • Keep humidity level in the home at 50% or lower.
  • Use a dehumidifier, especially in the basement (clean and empty often).
  • Use a diluted bleach and water mixture to clean areas where mold grows (bathroom, kitchen, basement).
  • Wash shower curtain liner often.
  • Avoid house plants.
  • Do not use humidifiers or vaporizers.
  • Do not store books in the open.
  • Repair water leaks, wet walls and ceiling panels.
  • Run the fan in the bathroom and kitchen.
  • Keep a small light on in the closet and bathroom. Molds grow in dark moist places.
  • Do not hang up damp garments in the closet.
  • Do not store firewood in the house.
  • Avoid sources of mold such as wet leaves, garden debris, and stacked wood.
  • Avoid standing water or areas of poor drainage.


Strong odors or fumes

  • Do not use room air fresheners, deodorizers, potpourri, incense, perfume, talcum powder, perfumed cosmetics, scented candles, paint, or permanent markers. Do not use scented products.
  • Use pump instead of aerosol sprays.
  • Do not stay in the home when painting. Use latex or low VOC paints (volatile organic component) instead of oil base paint.
  • Reduce strong cooking odors (frying) Open windows and use an exhaust fan.



  • Wear a scarf over the mouth and nose during cold, windy times.
  • Dress warm on cold, windy days.
  • Stay indoors when pollen counts are high or during air quality alerts. Avoid exercising during this time.


Dust mites

  • Remove carpet from the house. Use tile or hardwood floors.
  • Avoid sleeping on upholstered (stuffed) furniture. Replace with leather, vinyl, wood or bean bags.
  • Encase mattress, box springs and pillows in airtight zippered covers.
  • Remove stuffed animals from the bedroom. Keep a few washable ones, but wash them weekly.
  • Wash sheets, blankets, comforters, and pillows weekly in 130° water.
  • Cover air vents
  • Keep humidity at 50% or lower. A dehumidifier or humidity gauge is helpful.
  • Replace furnace filters monthly.
  • Remove pictures and wall hangings, and knick knack’s including books.
  • Use shades or washable curtains. Clean monthly.
  • Use a damp cloth to clean surface dust often. Avoid aerosols or scented cleaners.
  • Damp mop the floors weekly.
  • Do cleaning when the child is not around.
  • Avoid sleeping or lying on the carpeted floor.
  • Vacuum once or twice a week when the child is not around or at least 1-2 hours before he or she returns.
  • Use a high efficiency vacuum bag.
  • Store only necessary clothes in the closet. Put the remaining clothes in a zippered plastic garment bag.
  • Clean walls, baseboards, shelves and furniture once a month.



  • Warm up 30 minutes before and cool down after.
  • Set up a plan with your doctor that lets you exercise without symptoms. Ask especially if you are having symptoms such as cough, wheeze or tiring quickly during exercise.



  • Don’t leave food or garbage sitting out.
  • Keep food in airtight containers.
  • Keep trash bags closed.
  • Use poison bait, boric acid or traps. If a chemical agent is used, stay out of the house for 24 hours.
  • Throw away piles of paper and grocery sacks.
  • All units in multi-family dwellings must be treated.


Colds, influenza, respiratory illness

  • Get the flu shot.
  • Avoid others with colds and flu.
  • Wash hands often and encourage others to do so.


Wood smoke

  • Do not use wood stoves or fireplaces.


Tobacco smoke

  • Don’t allow smoking inside the house, car, or in small areas.
  • Smoke outside away from the doors. Wear an overcoat and remove it before entering the house.
  • Choose non-smoking areas in restaurants, hotels and public buildings.
  • Begin a Stop Smoking program.



  • Remove animals from the home. It may take 6-10 months to remove the dander.
  • Keep pets outside.
  • Keep pets out of the child’s bedroom.
  • Seal or cover the air ducts that lead to the child’s bedroom.
  • Wash pets weekly.
  • Choose a pet without fur such as a fish or turtle.
  • Avoid other homes with pets. If the child must visit, give asthma medicine before visiting.



  • Avoid products made with fur or feathers.
  • Avoid kapok (silky fiber from seed pods of silk-cotton tree).