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June 22, 2016

8 ways to reduce your odds of having an asthma attack

Wellness Asthma

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11_101717_Stock_Carroll Thom Carroll/PhillyVoice

Each year, asthma is responsible for nearly 2 million trips to the emergency room among the 24 million people living with the disease in the United States. While there is no cure for asthma, it can be kept under control if managed properly. It is important to know the triggers that can cause an attack, as well as some of the things you can do to eliminate triggers, control symptoms and generally breathe easier. 

Asthma is a chronic disease of the lung’s air passages that causes both inflammation and narrowing. The range of everyday triggers that can bring on an asthma attack is a wide one. Wheezing, coughing, shortness of breath and chest tightening are familiar symptoms of those suffering from asthma all around the world.

Typical asthma triggers include pollen, smoke, pet dander, household dust mites, mold and the presence of cockroaches or rodents in the home. Other phenomena that can trigger an asthma attack include polluted air outside, chemical fumes around the house, and, for many people, overly vigorous exercise in cold weather.

Most asthma sufferers know that common colds, sinus infections and bronchitis can easily tip over into an asthma attack, as can sudden changes in weather. Most asthma specialists acknowledge that extreme emotions and undue agitation can also set it off.

Although this all may seem like an impossible list of things to avoid, there are sensible steps you can take to lessen the impact of these triggers. Among the most obvious:

1. Quit smoking

If you suffer from asthma, you shouldn’t smoke, and you shouldn’t be living in a household with a smoker. Period.

2. Clean under the bed 

Dust mites are microscopic insects that almost everyone has. They reside in the dust that collects under your bed, on your mattresses, and in your down-filled pillows and comforters. Try to live in as close to a dust-free environment as possible – and wash your bedding frequently.

3. Check the air quality 

Most local news radio stations and websites report air quality each morning. Try to tailor your outdoor activities accordingly. Smog alerts and poor-air-quality readings are a time for asthma sufferers to stay indoors.

4. Rout the roaches 

It’s the droppings that cockroaches leave that are particularly irritating to the airways. Obviously, no well-kept household should tolerate cockroaches -- but they’re a special threat to asthma sufferers.

5. Should your pet be “re-homed?" 

Your four-legged friend could be an asthma trigger. It’s not a question of bathing them since it’s not their hair that causes the problem – it’s the dander. As much as you may love your pet, there may come a time when you love your lungs more and need to find a new home for your beloved animal.

6. Inspect for mold 

Mold spores in the air are a threat to anyone breathing them – but they’re are a particular threat to those living with asthma. If you think that dampness has caused black mold to form anywhere in your house, pay for an inspection and for professional mold remediation.

7. Invest in air conditioning

If your home isn’t centrally air conditioned, high-quality window units with powerful air-filtration are well worth the cost, especially during the high-pollen spring and summer months. For the asthma sufferer in your family, consider a unit at least for the bedroom.

8. Avoid burning wood 

The smell of wood smoke may be a favorite in the fall, but, it’s a well-known asthma trigger. Avoid burning wood in your home’s fireplaces and outdoor fire pits. If you live in a wooded, fire-prone area, always check local news reports before heading out for recreation or outdoor activities.

Unfortunately, asthma isn’t curable, but it can be managed. Practicing these common sense steps can substantially reduce the impact of asthma’s many common triggers. While you may not be able to eliminate them all, the fewer triggers, the less you’ll suffer.