If you have asthma, you need to do what you can to reduce your exposure to asthma triggers. Asthma triggers can aggravate your asthma symptoms -- coughing, wheezing, and difficulty catching your breath. While there’s no asthma cure, there are steps you can take to keep your asthma in control and prevent an asthma attack (worsening of asthma symptoms).
Identify Triggers for Asthma Prevention
Certain asthma triggers can set off the cascade of asthma symptoms. Some asthma triggers may include:
It’s vital to learn to identify your asthma triggers and take steps to avoid them.
Keep track of your asthma symptoms in an asthma diary for several weeks, detailing all the environmental and emotional factors that are associated with your asthma. When you have an asthma attack, go back to your asthma diary to see which factor, or combination of factors, might have contributed to it. Some common asthma triggers are not always obvious, such as molds and cockroaches. Ask your asthma specialist about allergy skin testing -- or specific IgE testing -- to determine the allergens to which you have become sensitized. You can then take measures to minimize your exposure to those allergens.
If you have exercise-induced asthma or are planning vigorous exercise or exercise in cold, humid, or dry environments, prevent exercise-induced asthma by following your doctor's advice regarding asthma treatment (usually by using an asthma inhaler containing the drug albuterol).
Allergies and Asthma Prevention
If you have allergies and asthma, it’s important to minimize your exposure to allergens (substances to which you are allergic). Allergen exposure can temporarily increase the inflammation of the airways in a person with asthma, making them more susceptible to an asthma attack. Avoiding or minimizing contact with the allergen can help prevent an asthma attack.
Avoid Smoke to Prevent Asthma
Smoke and asthma are a bad mix. Minimize exposure to all sources of smoke, including tobacco, incense, candles, fires, and fireworks. Do not allow smoking in your home or car, and avoid public places that permit smoking. If you smoke cigarettes, get help to quit successfully. Smoking always makes asthma worse.
Avoid Colds to Prevent Asthma
Do what you can to stay well. Avoid close contact with people who have a cold or the flu, because your asthma symptoms may worsen if you catch the infection from them. Wash your hands thoroughly after touching items that may have been handled by others with a respiratory infection.
For more detail, see WebMD’s article Asthma Prevention When You Have Allergies.
Allergy-Proof Your Environment for Asthma Prevention
Whether you’re at home, work, or traveling, there are specific measures you can take to allergy-proof your environment and reduce the risk of having asthma. For example, avoid eating in restaurants that are smoky or allow cigarette smoking. Call ahead when traveling and ask for a smoke-free hotel room. And bring your own bedding and pillows in case the hotel only supplies feather pillows and down comforters, which may harbor dust mites and cause asthma symptoms.
Get a Flu Vaccine for Asthma Prevention
Get a flu shot every year to protect against the flu virus, which almost always makes asthma much worse for days to weeks. People with asthma are more likely to have complications from the flu, such as pneumonia, and are more likely to be hospitalized because of the flu. Also, those over age 19 should get a pneumonia shot (called Pneumovax) once every five to 10 years. People with asthma are about twice as likely as others to get pneumococcal pneumonia, a common type of bacterial pneumonia.
Consider Allergy Shots (Immunotherapy) for Asthma Prevention
If your doctor finds that you have allergies, allergy shots (immunotherapy) may help prevent allergy symptoms and worsening of asthma. With allergy shots, small doses of allergens are injected under your skin on a regular schedule. Over a period of time, your body may become accustomed to the allergen and less responsive to it upon exposure. This can help prevent a worsening of asthma.
For more detail, see WebMD’s article Allergy Shots for Asthma.