Many things can trigger an asthma episode, including the following:

  • upper respiratory infections

  • allergies to dust mites, pollens, animal dander, mold/mildew, or cockroaches

  • exercise

  • irritants such as cigarette and other forms of smoke, strong odors and perfumes, fumes from wood stoves or kerosene heaters, and air pollution

  • weather changes

The following is a list of things you can do to limit your child's exposure to common triggers of asthma.

  • allergies

  • dust mites
    The allergy is caused by tiny insect-like creatures called dust mites. Dust mites are found in mattresses, carpets, and upholstered furniture. They thrive in warm, humid conditions and feed on the shed scales of human skin. The best way to prevent allergy symptoms caused by dust mites is to limit your child's exposure. Be sure to pay special attention to the bedroom where your child spends the most amount of his/her time.

  • beds
    Every bed in your house should have wooden or metal frames. Do not allow your child to sleep on a couch, sofa, or hide-a-bed. If your child has asthma and sleeps in a bunk bed, he/she should sleep in the top bunk.

  • mattress/box spring
    Place all mattresses and box springs in a zippered, dust-proof cover and tape over the zippers with electrical or duct tape.

  • pillows
    Encase pillows in zippered, dust-proof covers. Pillows should be made of Dacron or other synthetic fiber. Do not use foam, feather, or "Down" pillows.

  • bedding
    Avoid wool or down blankets. Wash all bedding (sheets, pillowcases, blankets) in hot water. Cold water will not kill the dust mites. Dry all clothes and bedding in the dryer to avoid pollen sticking to them when on a clothesline.

  • floor coverings
    If possible, remove wall-to-wall carpeting. If not, vacuum the carpet frequently (at least twice a week). If your child has asthma, only vacuum when your child is away and will not return to the room for several hours after you have finished. Substitute multi-layered vacuum bags for regular single layer bags. Small, washable cotton rugs may be used if washed often. Wood, tile, or vinyl flooring without a rug is best, and they should be mopped at least weekly.

  • closets
    Remove all stored toys, boxes, and other articles from closets. The closet should contain only clothing and should be as dust-free as the room. Keep all clothes in closets, never lying around the room.

  • furnace (heating)
    Electric or gas heat is recommended. Do not use wood stoves or kerosene heaters. Change the air filters on the furnace every month. Cover all furnace outlets in the room with special filters or cover the outlets with ten thicknesses of cheesecloth or muslin. This will catch dust in the furnace air. Change the cheesecloth when it gets dusty underneath (about every two weeks).

  • air purifier
    A HEPA filter unit of the proper size can effectively remove airborne allergens.

  • air conditioners
    Window unit or central air-conditioning is ideal. Change or clean all filters every month. Windows should be kept closed, especially in the summer.

  • doors
    Keep bedroom closet doors and bedroom doors closed as much as possible.

  • walls
    Paint walls or use washable wallpaper. Avoid pennants, pictures, wreaths, flower arrangements or other dust catchers on the walls.

  • window coverings
    Avoid heavy curtains and Venetian/mini blinds. Use window shades instead. If curtains are used, they should be washed monthly in hot water.

  • humidifier
    Avoid the use of humidifiers, dust mites grow best in high humidity. Use a dehumidifier to keep humidity in the home less than 50 percent.

  • furniture
    Remove all upholstered (stuffed) furniture and replace upholstered furniture with wooden or plastic furniture. Avoid open bookshelves, as they are great dust catchers.

  • sleeping and napping
    Your child should nap or sleep only in his/her own bed, which has been made dust free. When your child travels or visits, he/she should take a non-allergic pillow with him/her.

  • playing
    If your child has asthma, do not allow him/her to jump on furniture or beds nor wrestle on carpeted floors. Avoid fabric toys or stuffed animals. If your child has stuffed animals they should be machine washable and washed in hot water or placed in the freezer overnight at least weekly. Store toys in a closed toy chest.

Your Guide to Asthma


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Asthma is more common in boys than girls.