General Guidelines for Managing Asthma

Making some lifestyle changes can help you avoid triggers that may cause an asthma attack.

Reduce Your Exposure to Allergens That Trigger Asthma

Because there are many types of allergens that may trigger asthma, it is nearly impossible to completely eliminate all allergens from your environment. However, there are many things that you can do to help reduce allergens and minimize your exposure to asthma triggers, such as:

  • Control dust mites:
    • Wash bedding once a week in hot water. Stuffed animals should also be washed regularly or removed altogether.
    • Cover mattresses and pillows in dust-proof (allergen-impermeable) zippered covers.
    • If stuffed toys are in the house, keep them off your bed.
  • If pets are one of your asthma triggers:
    • Strongly consider finding a new home for your pets.
    • Keep pets out of the bedroom and other sleeping areas at all times, and keep the door closed.
    • Keep pets away from fabric-covered furniture, carpets, and stuffed toys.
  • Control pests:
    • Do not leave out food or garbage.
    • Store food in airtight containers.
    • Clean all food crumbs or spilled liquids right away.
    • Wash dishes as soon as you are done using them.
    • Keep counters, sinks, tables, and floors clean and clear of clutter.
    • Fix plumbing leaks and other moisture problems.
    • Take piles of boxes, newspapers, and other items where cockroaches may hide out of your home.
    • Make sure trash in your home is properly stored in containers with lids that close securely, and remove trash daily.
    • Try using poison baits, boric acid, or traps before using pesticide sprays.
  • Control mold:
    • Wash mold off hard surfaces and dry completely.
    • Absorbent materials, such as ceiling tiles and carpet, may have to be replaced if they are contaminated with mold.
  • Avoid airborne irritants such as:
    • Pollen
    • Smoke (including cigarette smoke)
    • Perfume
    • Paint fumes
    • Chemicals
    • Air pollution
  • Keep your home and work environments clean and dry:
    • Fix leaky plumbing or other sources of water.
    • Keep drip pans in your air conditioner, refrigerator, and dehumidifier clean and dry.
    • Use exhaust fans or open windows in kitchens and bathrooms when showering, cooking, or using the dishwasher.
    • Vent clothes dryers to the outside.
    • Maintain low indoor humidity, ideally between 30%-50% relative humidity. Humidity levels can be measured by hygrometers, which are available at local hardware stores.
    • Have a proper heating system. Researchers reported that heating systems that are more efficient and non-polluting can help to reduce asthma symptoms in children.
  • Avoid aspirin and other over-the-counter pain relievers (known as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs [NSAIDs]) if you have a known sensitivity to these drugs.
  • Avoid food allergens by reading the labels on foods, and when dining out ask if any foods contain sulfites or dyes you may be allergic to.

Pay Attention to Warning Signs When They Occur

When you or your child experience warning signs that an asthma attack may be imminent, begin treatment as recommended by your physician.

Warning signs include:

  • Increased shortness of breath and wheezing
  • Chest tightness or pain
  • An increased need to use bronchodilators
  • Fitful sleep patterns
  • Frequent coughing or coughing spasms, especially at night

Weather changes may worsen asthma symptoms, especially in children. If the humidity increases or the temperature changes, pay close attention to your child's symptoms.

Treat Symptoms Early

Although not all asthma attacks can be prevented, early treatment can significantly reduce the severity of the symptoms. Take all the necessary precautions to prevent asthma attacks, and treat symptoms as early as possible to avoid escalation to a serious attack.

Consider using an online program to manage your symptoms. These programs can help to improve the control of your asthma and your lungs function. Organizations like the American Lung Association and the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America offer information on web-based asthma management tools and support groups.

Ask Your Doctor About Physical Activity

Your doctor may recommend that you limit strenuous physical activity after an asthma attack. Consider the following when exercising:

  • Make sure you have good asthma control before exercising.
  • Some types of sports, like swimming and walking, are less likely to trigger an asthma attack. In general, sports that require short bursts of energy, like baseball and football, create fewer problems for people with asthma. Yoga may actually make you feel better and help you to reduce the amount of medicine you have to take. Talk to your doctor about which activities are safe for you.
  • Avoid strenuous outdoor exercise during days with high air pollution, a high pollen count (if you are allergic to pollens), or a high ozone level. Also, minimize outdoor activity when the temperature is high.
  • Talk to your doctor about the right level of exercise for you.

Get a Yearly Flu Shot

You are at a higher risk for flu-related complications, such as pneumonia , because you have asthma. Adults and children older than six months old should get a yearly seasonal flu shot . Also get the pandemic H1N1 flu vaccine once it is available.

When to Contact Your Doctor

If you are having a mild to moderate asthma attack and your medicine does not work in the time it is supposed to, call your doctor. If you are having a severe asthma attack, take your asthma medicine and get emergency medical help immediately.

If your asthma symptoms become severe despite lifestyle changes and treatment, contact your doctor for further care.