Triggers to Discuss with Patients with Uncontrolled Asthma

February 2016, Vol 4, No 2

Patients with uncontrolled asthma should be aware that asthma attacks can occur when they are exposed to certain asthma triggers. Because these triggers can vary from one person to the next, it is beneficial for patients with asthma to know their asthma triggers, and learn ways to avoid them.

Tobacco smoke
Patients with asthma should consider quitting smoking. In addition, patients and caregivers should be aware that secondhand smoke is also an asthma trigger, and that patients with asthma should avoid being near people who smoke.

Dust mites
Dust mites are asthma triggers, and, unfortunately, dwell in almost every home. Patients with asthma should be counseled to wash their bedding in the hottest water setting; remove stuffed animals and clutter from their bedroom; and avoid using down-filled pillows, quilts, or comforters.

Outdoor air pollution
Cars and factories are some of the many sources of outdoor pollution. Patients with asthma may use air quality forecasts to plan for outdoor activities when pollution levels are low, or make alternate plans when air pollution levels are high.

Cockroach allergen
Patients with asthma should be aware that cockroaches and their droppings are asthma triggers. To avoid these triggers, discuss with your patients removing as many cockroach water and food sources as possible; vacuuming or sweeping areas that may attract cockroaches, including places where food is eaten and crumbs are left behind; and using roach traps or gels to cut down on the number of cockroaches.

When speaking with your patient, determine whether they have pets at home. If you suspect that their pet is causing asthma attacks, discuss with them the possibility of finding the pet another home. If that is not an option for your patient and his or her family, the pet should, at the very least, be kept from the patient's room. Pets should also be bathed on a weekly basis and kept outside as much as possible.

Mold can grow because of humidity in the home, but an air conditioner or dehumidifier can help keep humidity levels low. Patients may also consider purchasing a hygrometer to check humidity levels, and keeping them as low as possible (<50%). Because humidity levels vary throughout the day, patients should be advised to check them more than once daily. Water leaks can also lead to mold behind walls and under floors.

Smoke from burning wood, grass
Harmful gases and small particles are associated with smoke from burning wood or grass. Patients with asthma should avoid burning wood in their home. In addition, wildfires contribute to poor air quality, and patients should pay close attention to air quality forecasts when wildfires are happening in their area.

Other asthma triggers
Influenza, colds, respiratory syncytial virus and sinus infections, allergies, inhaling home chemicals, and acid reflux can trigger asthma attacks. Other asthma triggers include physical exercise; certain medications; bad weather (eg, thunderstorms and high humidity); breathing in cold, dry air; as well as some foods, food additives, and fragrances.

Last modified: March 16, 2016
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