Preventing Asthma Attacks From Indoor Allergens

Asthma and Allergies

When you have asthma, it is important to know what makes your asthma symptoms worse (what triggers your asthma). When you know what triggers your asthma, you can take steps to prevent asthma attacks. You can also better control your asthma.

Many things found indoors can trigger asthma, including:

• Certain foods.
• Medicines, vitamins, and supplements.
• Pets.
• Dust and dust mites.
• Pests.
• Molds.

What Nutrition Changes Can Be Made?

Making certain nutrition changes, such as avoiding sulfites and certain vitamins, supplements, and medicines, may help you be in better control of your asthma.


Sulfites are preservatives that help keep foods from spoiling. Sulfites can trigger an asthma attack in some teens, so it is best to avoid eating foods that have them. To check if a food has sulfites, read its food labels. Look for the word “sulfite” or words that contain “sulfite,” like “sodium sulfite” or “potassium bisulfite.” Common foods that have high amounts of sulfites include:

• Dried fruits.
• Canned fruits and vegetables.
• Bottled lemon, lime, and grape juices.

Vitamins, supplements, and medicines

Vitamins, some supplements, and over-the-counter medicines such as cold medicines, aspirin, and ibuprofen can contain things that could trigger your asthma. Before taking any medicines, talk with your health care provider to make sure they will not trigger your asthma.

What Lifestyle Changes Can Be Made?

Removing common triggers from your home can help make asthma attacks less severe and make them happen less often.


Pets are a common asthma trigger. Do these things to avoid an asthma attack due to pets:

• If you live with a pet, keep it out of your bedroom at all times.
• If possible, have your pet live outside.
• If you are getting a new pet, avoid getting one with fur or feathers. Pets with fur and feathers are more likely to trigger asthma attacks than pets without them.

Dust and dust mites

Dust and dust mites are common asthma triggers. To avoid an asthma attack due to these triggers:

• Keep your house clean and remove dust often. If possible, have someone do this who does not have asthma.
• Put a dust-proof cover on your mattress and pillow.
• Every week, wash your bed sheets and any stuffed animals in hot water with detergent and bleach.


Cockroaches leave droppings that many people with asthma are allergic to. If you think there are cockroaches in your home, ask to have a pest control expert remove them and spray areas of your home to prevent them from coming back.


Mold can develop in areas that are often exposed to moisture or have poor ventilation, such as in the kitchen, bathroom, and basement. If there is mold in your home, ask an adult to remove it right away with a cleaning solution that contains bleach.


Some things can irritate your lungs and make your asthma worse. It is best to avoid them if possible. The following are some common irritants and ways that you can avoid them:

Tobacco smoke. If someone wants to smoke, ask him or her to smoke outside.
Fireplace smoke. If your home is heated with a wood-burning fireplace, avoid spending a lot of time in the room where the fireplace is located.
Vacuum cleaning. Vacuuming should be done by someone who does not have asthma. He or she should use a vacuum that has a HEPA filter. Avoid being in a room when it is being vacuumed.
Strong odors from sprays such as perfume or air fresheners. Avoid using things that have a strong odor in your bedroom and in areas where you spend a lot of time. Ask others to avoid using them in common areas or when they are around you.

Why Are These Changes Important?

Avoiding asthma triggers will help you to have fewer asthma attacks. It will also reduce how often you need to use your rescue asthma medicine.

What Can Happen If Changes Are Not Made?

If you do not try to remove and avoid indoor asthma triggers, you may feel sick a lot of the time. You probably spend a lot of time in your home, and if asthma triggers are there, you may feel sick when you are sleeping and doing other activities.

What Can I Do To Lower My Risk?

• Keep all visits with your health care provider. This is important.
• Stay up to date on your vaccinations, and make sure to get a flu shot each year.
• Develop an asthma action plan with your health care provider and caregivers. This should involve identifying your asthma triggers.
• Always take your asthma medicine as told by your health care provider, and keep your rescue inhaler with you at all times. Sometimes, an attack can happen even if you are not around any of your triggers.

How Is This Treated?

Asthma attacks can happen even if you do your best to avoid triggers. If you have an asthma attack, follow the action plan that you developed with your health care provider.

Where To Find Support

If you have questions about any medicines, foods, or triggers, talk with your health care provider about them. Sometimes, it can be hard for teens with asthma to feel like they fit in. The good news is that lots of teens just like you have asthma. There are support groups and even camps for teens with asthma. Ask your health care provider if there are any support groups or camps near you.

Where To Find More Information

Information about indoor triggers and a template for an asthma action plan can be found on the American Lung Association website.


• Many asthma triggers can be found indoors.
• Learn what your asthma triggers are and how to avoid them.
• Work with your family members to remove asthma triggers from your home.
• If you have an asthma attack, follow your asthma action plan.

This information is not intended to replace advice given to you by your health care provider. Make sure you discuss any questions you have with your health care provider.

Document Released: 01/01/2017 Document Revised: 07/07/2017 Document Reviewed: 01/01/2017
Elsevier Interactive Patient Education © 2019 Elsevier Inc.

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