It's important to take steps at home for asthma prevention if you have allergies. Asthma attacks (worsening of asthma symptoms) can be triggered by allergies, which can temporarily increase the inflammation of the airways in a susceptible person. If you can avoid coming in contact with the substance you are allergic to (allergen), you may be able to prevent symptoms of an asthma attack. Here are some tips to help prevent allergic asthma at home:
Dust Mite Prevention
- Encase pillows, mattresses, and box springs with allergen-proof, zippered covers.
- Wash all bedding in hot water once a week.
- Don't allow smoking in your house.
- Wear a mask and gloves when cleaning, vacuuming, or painting to limit dust and chemical exposure.
- Vacuum twice a week.
- Limit throw rugs to reduce dust and mold. If you do have rugs, make sure they are washable.
- When possible, choose hardwood floors instead of carpeting. If you must have carpeting, choose low-pile material.
- Avoid dust-collecting Venetian blinds or long drapes. Replace old drapes with window shades instead. Washable curtains should be washed in hot water every two to four weeks.
- Non-carpeted flooring is best. If you cannot get rid of your carpeting, vacuum often with a multi-layer, allergen-proof vacuum bag. Wear a mask while vacuuming. If your child has asthma, do not vacuum while he or she is in the room. Products that eliminate dust mites from carpeting (such as Acarosan) can be purchased. Your asthma care provider can give you information about these products.
- Dust all surfaces with a damp cloth often, including lampshades and windowsills.
- Keep clutter under control. Toys and books should be stored in enclosed bookshelves, drawers, or closets.
- Replace traditional stuffed animals with washable stuffed animals.
- Keep all clothing in drawers and closets. Keep drawers and closets closed.
- Cover air ducts with filters or cheesecloth. Change these when soiled.
- Pillows and bedding should not contain feathers.
- Keep indoor humidity low (25%-50%). Use a dehumidifier.
- Regularly change filters on heaters and air conditioners.
Mold and Mildew Prevention
For asthma prevention when you have mold and mildew allergies, try the following suggestions:
- Air out damp, humid areas frequently. Run a dehumidifier to keep humidity between 25% and 50%.
- Use air conditioners when possible.
- Clean bathrooms regularly using products that kill and prevent mold. Use exhaust fans to vent steam. Do not carpet the bathroom.
- Keep indoor plants out of bedrooms.
- When painting, add mold inhibitor to paint to prevent mold from growing.
- Avoid sources of outdoor molds, such as wet leaves or garden debris.
- To clean visible mold, use a cleaning solution containing 5% bleach and a small amount of detergent.
- Wash shower curtains and bathroom tiles with mold-killing solutions.
- Avoid areas where molds may collect, including basements, garages, crawl spaces, barns, and compost heaps. Have someone else clean these areas often.
- Air out damp clothes and shoes (in the house) before storing.
- Remove laundry from the washing machine promptly. Don't leave wet clothes in the washer where mold can quickly grow.
- Don't collect too many indoor plants, as soil encourages mold growth.
- Store firewood outside.
- Avoid raking leaves or working with hay or mulch if you are allergic to mold.
Many homes and apartments have cockroaches and other insects. Some people with asthma are allergic to a protein in their droppings. To prevent an allergic asthma reaction, try the following steps to control insects in your home:
- Use roach baits or traps.
- Insect sprays can be used but should only be sprayed when no one is at home. Before you or your child returns home after spraying, make sure that your home has been aired out for a couple of hours.
- Because cockroaches survive in high-humid environments, fix water leaks in and around your home.
- Cover food in lid containers and clean dishes after eating and sweep floors after you have eaten.
Pollen is a tiny egg-shaped cell from flowering plants. Pollen is difficult to avoid because they cannot be eliminated from the atmosphere. Plants have different periods of pollination, which varies little from year to year. Yet, the type of weather affects the amount of pollen in the air, with hot, dry, and windy weather causing more pollen in the air. In general, pollen season lasts from February to October.
For asthma prevention with allergies, try to reduce your or your child's exposure to pollen:
- Limit outdoor activities during times of high pollen, such as early morning.
- Stay indoors during humid or windy days when pollen counts are high.
- Keep windows closed during pollen seasons.
- Use air conditioning if possible.
- Minimize walks in wooded areas or gardens.
- Check the forecast. Stay indoors as much as possible on hot, dry, windy days when pollen counts are generally the highest.
- If possible, stay indoors between 5 a.m. and 10 a.m. when outdoor pollen counts are usually highest.
- Wear a mask (such as an inexpensive painter's mask) when mowing the lawn if you are allergic to grass pollen or mold. Avoid mowing and being around freshly cut grass if possible.
- Wear a mask when gardening, as flowers and some weeds release pollen and can cause allergy symptoms.
- Take a shower after being outdoors. Also, wash your hair, and change your clothes to remove pollen that may have collected in your clothes and hair.
- Avoid hanging clothes or linens out to dry, as pollen and molds may collect in them and can make your allergies worse.
Other Outdoor Tips
- Try to avoid extreme temperature changes -- they are causes of asthma for some people with asthma.
- To protect yourself from insect stings, wear shoes, long pants and sleeves, and do not wear scented deodorants, perfumes, shampoos, or hair products.
Pet Dander Prevention
- It is best not to own any pets if you or your child is highly allergic.
- Long visits to friends and family who own pets should be avoided. If you do visit, make sure you or your child takes asthma or allergy medicines before the visit. Exposure to the pets should be kept to a minimum when visiting.
- If you must have a cat or dog in the home, restrict its living area. It should not be allowed in your or your child's bedroom at any time. If possible, keep the pet outside.
- Wash your pet weekly.
- Remove as much carpeting as possible. Animal dander deposits in the carpet and stays there, even after the pet is gone from the home.
For more detail, see WebMD's article on Allergies and Asthma.
Asthma Prevention In the Car
For allergic asthma prevention when driving in your car, try these tips:
- Keep windows closed and set the air conditioner to use recirculated air if you are allergic to pollen.
- Don't permit smoking in the car.
Asthma Prevention in Hotels and While Travelling
For allergic asthma prevention when you travel, use the following suggestions:
- Pack your asthma drugs with you in your carry-on bag.
- Bring an extra bronchodilator and asthma inhaler in case you need them.
- Ask for a nonsmoking room.
- Remove feather pillows and ask for synthetic, nonallergenic pillows -- or bring your own plastic pillow cover from home.
- If possible, keep the vent on the room air conditioner shut.
Asthma and Allergy Prevention at Restaurants
For asthma prevention when you have food allergies, avoid allergy triggers at restaurants with these tips:
- For food allergies, avoid the foods that cause your allergy symptoms by carefully reading ingredient labels and asking about the food preparation methods when dining out. Choose fresh foods rather than prepared or processed foods. If you have severe asthma attacks or anaphylaxis, carry two epinephrine injection kits with you at all times.
For Children With Allergies and Asthma in School
For asthma prevention when your child has allergies and childhood asthma, use the following suggestions to protect them at school:
- Discuss your child's allergies and asthma with school personnel.
- If your child suffers from food allergies, discuss them with school officials, teachers and lunchroom staff.
- Educate your child about his/her allergies and asthma early, so your child can learn to avoid situations where he or she may eat a food that will trigger an allergic reaction. Arrange for an epinephrine kit to be left at the school, and make sure school officials (and your child when they are old enough) are able to use it correctly and without hesitation should symptoms arise.
- Inform school personnel about the asthma treatments your child is taking and make arrangements to leave necessary medication at school.
- Encourage sports participation, but inform coaches of medicines that may need to be taken before activities to prevent exercise-induced asthma.
For more information, see WebMD's Asthma in Children.
Avoiding food triggers can be challenging. For asthma prevention when you have food allergies, it's important to always read food labels and, when dining out, ask how foods are prepared.
For more detail, see WebMD's article on Food Allergies and Asthma.
Consider Allergy Shots
To help prevent asthma flares when you have allergic asthma, it may be beneficial to use allergy shots to “train” your body not to overreact when exposed to allergens. Physicians (typically allergists) inject you with gradually increasing amounts of the allergen to help your immune system become more tolerant when exposed to allergies. Allergy shots cause your reactions to become milder or disappear entirely.
For more information, see WebMD's Allergy Shots for Asthma.