Asthma Triggers in the Home Identify and Stop Them!


By Lisa Collins, RN & Jennifer Paling, RN

Asthma is a serious, chronic lung disease that is caused by swelling in the airways (bronchial tubes). There is no cure for asthma, but with proper care, it can be prevented and controlled. People with asthma can live normal, active lives.

When a person has asthma, their airways that are very twitchy or sensitive. Asthma symptoms may appear when irritants are present; these are called triggers. When near an asthma trigger, airways may become swollen, tight, and produce too much mucus. This may cause difficulty breathing, wheezing, coughing and congestion, as well as itchy eyes, or a runny nose.
Asthma triggers can be found anywhere, but many are present in our homes. Some of these include:
Dust Mites

Dust mites, their body parts and droppings are found in several places in the home. It is important to keep the bedroom as trigger-free as possible. Ways to accomplish this are to dust often, wash bedding weekly in hot water, cover mattresses and pillows with encasements, reduce clutter, and limit stuffed toys. Vacuum carpet often and keep window coverings free from dust.


Pests include cockroach body parts, secretions and droppings, and rodents’ hair, skin flakes, urine and saliva. The waste products from these pests can also be a trigger. Ways to avoid these pests are keeping food covered and areas free from food crumbs.

Warm-Blooded Pets

This includes cats and dogs’ skin flakes, urine and saliva. To help reduce the triggers, limit the number of household pets. They should be bathed on a weekly basis. Keep them out of the bedroom where the asthmatic sleeps.


Mold and mold spores may begin growing indoors when they land on damp or wet surfaces. Keep damp areas dry to prevent mold from growing. If mold is present, clean thoroughly by scrubbing hard surfaces with detergent and water. Replace absorbent materials, such as ceiling tiles and carpet if mold is present.

Secondhand Smoke

Secondhand smoke is a mixture of smoke from the burning end of a cigarette, pipe, or cigar, and the smoke exhaled by a smoker. Tobacco smoke can cause permanent damage to the lungs. Do not allow smoking in your home or around an asthmatic.

Nitrogen Dioxide

Nitrogen dioxide is an odorless gas that can irritate your eyes, nose and throat, and may cause shortness of breath. Cooking appliances that use gas, fireplaces, woodstoves, and unvented kerosene and gas space-heaters release nitrogen dioxide into the air. If you must use these, it is important to make sure the room is properly ventilated.

Triggers are different for everyone. The key is being aware of your environment, recognizing your triggers, and knowing how to control them. Seeing your doctor regularly and taking your prescribed medications will help keep your asthma under control.

Hurley Medical Center/GCAN (Genesee County Asthma Network) Asthma Disease Management Program provides in-home asthma education. A registered nurse/asthma educator visits the home monthly and provides education to asthmatics and their families. GCAN also performs home assessments to identify triggers and offer ways to reduce them. The program provides asthma education to school personnel, as well. For referrals or information regarding the program, please feel free to contact: Lisa Collins, RN, Nurse Case Manager/Asthma Educator at 810.262.6125, or Jennifer Paling, RN, Nurse Case Manager/Asthma Educator at 810.262.9591.
The key to controlling asthma is recognizing your triggers and being aware of your environment.



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