Reducing Your Child's Triggers
Asthma triggers can make your child’s symptoms start to appear or even worsen into a full blown episode. That’s why it’s so important to reduce your child’s exposure to them as much as possible. The fewer triggers your child comes in contact with, the easier it will be to manage her asthma.
Here are some common asthma triggers and suggestions for helping your child avoid them.
You can't control the quality of the air in the area in which you live, but you can control how much your child is exposed to it. Here’s how: Stay indoors on hot days, especially in the afternoon and evenings, when pollution in the air from smog is usually worse. Become aware of changes in air quality. Sometimes you’ll be able to do this by just looking out the window and seeing if the air is hazy or smoggy. You can also find air quality reports on the Internet, and often on the local TV, radio, or in newspapers.
Where there is dust, there are dust mites, tiny creatures so small they can’t be seen. They live in sheets, pillowcases, stuffed animals, carpeting, upholstered furniture, and old clothes. If dust mites are a trigger for your child, you should: Keep the house as clean as possible. Eliminate dust and clutter when you can, especially in your child’s bedroom. Limit stuffed animals, and wash all sheets and pillowcases in hot water at least once a week. Consider getting special covers for your child’s mattress and pillows.
There will be times when your child gets upset or mad or sad or very excited. You can't avoid that. But you can help your child react to those emotions in ways that don't make his asthma symptoms worse. Teach your child how to take deep, calming breaths to help him find a way to slow down and relax when he is upset. Practice "belly breathing" with your child when his breathing is normal, so he can learn it. Belly breathing can help your child relax so he can catch his breath.
Just because physical activity can trigger your child’s asthma symptoms, doesn't mean she has to sit on the sidelines. Your child's health care provider can work with you to plan an approach to appropriate physical activities for you child. Click on the "Exercise and Asthma" link at the top of this article.
Allergies to foods like nuts, shellfish, or dairy products can make your child's asthma worse. If you suspect your child has a food allergy that has not been diagnosed, talk with his health care provider. He may suggest seeing a specialist such as an allergy doctor.
Colds, flu, and other viral infections can be an asthma trigger for children. During cold and flu season, make sure your child washes her hands often, stays away from people who are infected, gets a yearly flu shot, eats well and gets enough exercise and sleep. Viruses can make asthma symptoms worse. if your child has a cold or flu, talk to your health care provider for recommended treatment.
If your child's asthma is triggered by pet fur or dander, try these strategies: Keep the pet out of your child's bedroom at all times. Give your pet a weekly bath. Keep the area where your pet sleeps and eats clean. Don't let your child brush your pet. (This stirs up dander, making it easier for your child to breathe it in.) If your child's reaction to pet dander is severe, and the steps mentioned here have not been effective, you may have to consider finding a new home for your pet.
It's critical that children with asthma stay away from cigarette smoke. If you or someone else in your house smokes, the best thing you can do for your child is to quit. Get help by participating in the American Lung Association's Secondhand Smoke: Freedom From Smoking program or call its HelpLine at 1-800-586-4872. Make sure all family activities are in smoke free places. Teach your child to move away if someone is smoking around her. Let your child know she has the right to ask adults to stop smoking near her. Keep your child away from smoke from campfires or wood-burning stoves, too.
Strong odors, whether from perfume, hair spray, or cleaning fluids, can be an asthma trigger. Look for natural cleaning products that are unscented to use in your home. Avoid scented candles and air fresheners. Let your child know that he should move away and get into fresh air when there is a strong smell that bothers his lungs.
Cold, windy days…hot, humid days…any change in the weather can trigger your child's asthma symptoms. Keep your child healthy during weather changes by giving your child a scarf that covers his nose and mouth. This can prevent cold air from getting into his lungs. Keep your child indoors if the weather is very hot or very cold.