Get Smart About Asthma

5 Asthma Attack Triggers

Asthma attacks can seem to come out of nowhere, but these environmental factors are often to blame.

Smoke

Secondhand tobacco smoke triggers attacks, makes them worse once they start, and is a key risk factor for developing asthma in the first place.

What to do: If you're a smoker, ask your doctor to help you quit. Don't let anyone else smoke in your home or car, and avoid burning wood in fireplaces or stoves.

Pollen

Asthma spikes in the fall, when plants like ragweed are pollinating, as well as in the spring, when most trees and grasses release pollen.

What to do: Stay indoors at midday and late afternoon, when pollen counts are highest, and keep windows closed. Check with your doctor to see if your child should boost his anti-inflammatory drug dose or start taking an antihistamine before allergy season begins.

Dust Mites

Allergenic debris from these tiny bugs can saturate bedding, clothes, and carpeting.

What to do: Encase mattresses and pillows in mite-proof covers; wash bedding weekly in hot water, and use the dryer on the hottest setting. Run air-conditioning or dehumidifiers to reduce humidity to 30 to 50 percent because mites thrive in moist air. Keep stuffed toys out of your child's bed or wash them weekly.

Pets

Dander (especially from cats) gets everywhere and is tough to remove.

What to do: Find another family to adopt your pet. If you can't part with it, keep the pet out of your child's bedroom and close the door. Remove carpeting or cloth furniture where possible, or keep the pet out of carpeted and furnished rooms. HEPA filters may also be helpful.

Mold

These spores are allergens that grow indoors year-round. Outdoor molds are worst in the fall and spring.

What to do: Mold thrives on moisture, so run a fan or open a window when you take a shower or bath, run a dehumidifier in the basement, and fix leaky pipes or faucets. Clean visible mold with nonchlorine bleach or a cleanser like Concrobium Mold Control.

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