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Asthma Health Center

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Your Survival Guide for Allergic Asthma

By Amanda Gardner
WebMD Feature
Reviewed by William Blahd, MD

You can live a full and active life even when you have allergic asthma.

Joanna Thomas has had severe allergic asthma since she was 2 years old. Her asthma is triggered, she says, by "just about everything." Now in her 70s, she travels, volunteers, exercises, and generally enjoys life.

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What Is Asthma?

Asthma is a chronic disease of the airways that makes breathing difficult. With asthma, there is inflammation of the air passages that results in a temporary narrowing of the airways that carry oxygen to the lungs. This results in asthma symptoms, including coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath, and chest tightness. If it is severe, asthma can result in decreased activity and inability to talk. Some people refer to asthma as "bronchial asthma." Even though there are seemingly miraculous treatments...

Read the What Is Asthma? article > >

You can, too.

Clear the Air

There's only so much you can do about outdoor air quality, but you can control the air quality inside your home. For starters, keep your windows shut.

Thomas finds that a HEPA filter keeps the air in her house clean by filtering out dust mites, pet dander, and other allergens.

Plan for Exercise

You can and should exercise. It helps your lungs and heart work better, and it builds your strength and endurance. If you choose an outdoor activity, try to limit the pollen and irritants you bring inside with you. As soon as you come in, take off your clothes and shower. Make sure to wash or rinse your hair.

On some days, when the pollen count is high, that might not be enough. Exercise inside on those days. Thomas has a folding, rollable treadmill that she uses in her home. She even takes it with her on vacations in her RV. Other people with allergic asthma find that yoga is a good inside alternative.

Rethink Your Home Decor

The surfaces in your home are as important as the air. Wash your curtains or, even better, replace them with blinds or other non-fabric window dressings. Vacuum upholstered furniture. Dust items that are leather, plastic, vinyl, or wood with a damp cloth.

Thomas replaced all the carpet in her home with hard-surfaced flooring. Carpets can harbor allergens including dust mites, cockroach droppings, pollen, and mold spores.

Clean With Care

If you can't get rid of your carpet, the American Lung Association recommends vacuuming at least three times a week using a HEPA filter and while wearing a mask.

In fact, you should wear a mask for any type of cleaning. "I wear an ear-loop face mask," Thomas says.

What else can you do? Take out the garbage every day. Only empty the vacuum bag outside.

When Is Your Asthma Worse?

When Is Your Asthma Worse?

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