Managing triggers

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You can help prevent allergy and asthma flare-ups by knowing what triggers them.

What are triggers?

Triggers are the allergens and irritants that make your allergies or asthma feel worse. Each person has a unique set of triggers. You can often find your triggers by paying attention to when your symptoms begin, like after you've mowed the lawn.

When you can’t avoid your triggers, you may need to take allergy medication. If you have the type of asthma that is due to allergies, called allergic asthma, then avoiding your allergy triggers can help prevent asthma attacks.

Animals and insects

TriggersSolutions
Animal dander or fur
  • Move pets out of your bedroom, if not out of your home.
  • Use a portable air cleaner with a HEPA filter in the bedroom.
  • Close the heater and air conditioning vents.
  • Keep pets off furniture and out of your car.
  • Remove carpets, if possible.
  • Make sure your vacuum has a high-quality filter.
  • Wash your hands after petting an animal.
  • Bathe your pets every 2 weeks.
Cockroaches

Home maintenance

  • Have your home treated by a pest exterminator. Live in an apartment or condo? Make sure all units are treated.
  • Plug up cracks outside of your house that cockroaches may crawl through.
  • Fix water leaks under sinks.

Food and cleaning

  • Always eat in the kitchen only.
  • Put away all foods and wipe up spills as soon as possible.
  • Clean countertops daily.
  • Mop kitchen floor at least once a week.
  • Store food and trash in closed containers.
  • Take out the trash daily.
Feathers
  • Move pet birds out of your bedroom, if not out of your home.
  • Get feather-free bedding, or get mite-proof covers.
  • Wash your hands after touching feathers.

Drugs

TriggersSolutions
Drugs
  • Tell your doctor about all the medications you take, especially beta blockers.
  • Allergic to aspirin? Avoid ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) and naproxen (Aleve).

Environment

TriggersSolutions
Cigarette smoke
  • If you smoke, quit.
  • Don't allow smoking in your home or car.
  • Sit in nonsmoking areas in restaurants, waiting rooms, and trains.
  • Request nonsmoking hotels rooms.
Colds, flu, infections
  • Wash your hands often.
  • Avoid contact with those who are sick.
  • Get a yearly flu shot.
  • Consider getting the pneumonia vaccine.
Dust, sawdust, chalk
  • Wear a mask or scarf.
Dust

Choose dust-resistant furnishings

  • Limit knick-knacks, books, etc., that can collect dust.
  • Remove carpets, if possible.  

Cleaning and home maintenance

  • Have someone else clean while you’re out.
  • Make sure your vacuum has a high-quality filter.
  • Dust with a damp cloth.
  • Damp mop your floors regularly.  
  • Wash curtains or drapes every 1 to 2 months.
  • Consider using a dehumidifier and HEPA air filter.
  • Clean or replace heat and air conditioning filters every 6 to 8 weeks.
Dust mites
  • Cover your mattress, box spring and pillows with mite-proof cases.
  • Wash bedding in hot water (at least 130 degrees F.) every week.
  • Avoid using humidifiers.
Fumes, scents, sprays

Safety

  • Follow safety guidelines when you’re working with chemicals and cleaners.
  • Avoid exposure to strong odors or aerosol sprays. 
  • Use exhaust fans or open windows when you’re cooking.

Cleaning

  • Have someone else clean while you’re out.
  • Wear a charcoal filter mask while cleaning.
  • Don't use perfumed products with strong scents.
Mold

Control humidity

  • Use a dehumidifier or air conditioner to keep humidity below 50 percent, especially in your bedroom.
  • When you turn on any air conditioner, open windows or leave the area for several minutes to allow the mold to disperse.
  • Avoid carpets and wallpaper in rooms that tend to be damp.
  • Don’t use humidifiers.

Maintenance

  • Increase the ventilation in your home.
  • Repair leaks in faucets, pipes, and ducts as soon as possible.
  • Remove leaves and lawn debris from your yard, roof, and gutters.

Cleaning

  • Clean mold with mild bleach solution.
  • Throw away items that are too moldy to clean.
Pollen
  • During allergy season, keep the doors and windows to your car and home closed.
  • Stay indoors, especially in the morning and midafternoon.
  • Change your clothes and shower after you’ve been outdoors.
Smog
  • Stay inside as much as possible, and keep your windows closed.
Smoke from wood stove
  • Avoid burning wood in stoves and fireplaces.
  • Don’t use kerosene heaters in your home.
Temperature changes
  • Try to avoid being outside in severe weather.
  • Cover your mouth with a scarf in cold weather.

Foods

TriggersSolutions
Foods, additives, sulfites
  • Avoid problem foods by checking food labels and menus.
  • Check with restaurant staff before ordering.
  • Check wine labels for sulfites.

Lifestyle

TriggersSolutions
Emotions, stress
  • Avoid stressful situations.
  • Practice relaxation exercises.
Exercise
  • Use your inhaler before exercising.
  • Exercise indoors on high pollution days or in cold weather.
  • Warm up and cool down.
  • Swimming is an excellent exercise choice.
  • Change your exercise routine when your asthma isn’t well-controlled.

Reviewed by: William Crawford, MD, December 2015
Additional Kaiser Permanente reviewers

© 2015 Kaiser Permanente