Mastering your asthma means understanding your medications, using them correctly,
and monitoring your signs and peak flow on an ongoing basis. But it's important
to try to avoid the things that trigger your asthma in the first place.
Many of the same culprits that trigger allergies also trigger asthma — and
if you reduce your exposure to them, it will mean less inflammation, fewer
symptoms, and a potentially lower dose of medication. Consider the following
- Animal dander — Do you have a pet? If so,
you might feel nasal, eye, or chest symptoms after a carpet has been vacuumed.
Do your symptoms improve if you have been gone from home for a week or more?
Do your symptoms get worse within 24 hours of returning home?
- Dust mites — Do you feel nasal, eye, or
chest symptoms after a carpet has been vacuumed? Do you get these symptoms
after making a bed?
- Pollen — from grass, weeds, and trees,
and outdoor molds: Does your asthma get worse during any particular part
of the year?
- Indoor fungi (molds) — Do you feel nasal,
eye, or chest symptoms in basements or other damp, moldy rooms?
- Other asthma triggers -- include irritants like smoke, pollution, fumes,
cleaning chemicals, and sprays. Food allergies are not a common trigger of
Anyone who has persistent asthma and is using daily medications should probably
get tested for allergies, if they haven't already done so. Skin or in vitro
allergy tests determine whether you are allergic to certain allergens (like
animal dander, dust mites, mold, or cockroaches). Once you have a better idea
of what's triggering your asthma, you can focus on taking specific steps, like
keeping pets out of the bedroom or removing carpeting.
Many studies have proven that reducing indoor allergens in your home reduces
asthma symptoms, so these steps should be seriously considered.
Finally, keep in mind that allergies can either increase or decrease with
age. Allergy testing, therefore, is like a snapshot of a moving picture. Even
though you or your child has been tested once, testing again may be appropriate,
especially if your living environment has changed.
Immunotherapy, also called allergy shots, has been shown to reduce asthma
symptoms. This strategy should be considered when you know that certain allergens
are causing your asthma, you can't avoid these allergens and they cause symptoms
year-round, and drug therapy is not working well. However, keep in mind that
people with asthma are more likely to have bad reactions to allergy shots than
people who take them just for allergies, and that asthma experts are not in
agreement about what role this strategy should take.
Some people are exposed to irritants in their place of work -- such as chemicals,
dusts, gases, smoke, and fumes. These irritants can trigger pre-existing asthma,
but in other cases they can actually cause asthma that wouldn't otherwise occur.
Therefore, it is important to deal with these irritants as soon as possible
-- the longer you wait, the more likely it becomes that your symptoms will
remain after you are no longer exposed to them in that workplace. An allergist
can help you evaluate the impact that your work environment may be having on
Williams SG, Schmidt DK, Redd SC, Storms W. Key clinical activities for quality
asthma care: recommendations of the National Asthma Education and Prevention
Program. MMWR Recomm Rep. 2003 Mar 28;52(RR-6):1-8.
Review Date: 5/16/2007
Reviewed By: Alan Greene, M.D., F.A.A.P., Department of Pediatrics, Packard Children's Hospital, Stanford University School of Medicine; Chief Medical Officer, A.D.A.M., Inc.
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