How can I help my child avoid asthma triggers?

Answers from James T C Li, M.D., Ph.D.

Help your child avoid asthma triggers — allergens or irritants in the environment that can trigger asthma symptoms — by, first, identifying what those triggers are. Then, reduce your child's exposure to them as much as possible.

Common asthma triggers

Asthma triggers can include:

  • Pollen
  • Dust mites
  • Cockroaches
  • Pet dander
  • Indoor molds
  • Wood and tobacco smoke
  • Air pollution
  • Viruses
  • Cold air
  • Physical activity
  • Chemicals called volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that can be found in paints, flooring and other household products
  • Stress and negative emotions

Each child may have a different set of asthma triggers, so it's important to know what your child is susceptible to. Consider getting an allergy skin test, which can pinpoint specific allergy triggers.

It may also help to monitor activities and symptoms in a daily diary, so you can identify environmental or activity-related triggers that make your child's asthma worse.

Reduce allergens and irritants in your home

If pollen, dust mites and pet dander are among your child's asthma triggers:

  • Use an air conditioner and dehumidifier to keep humidity levels low.
  • Use air filtration devices to keep indoor air clean.
  • Wash bedding regularly on the hottest settings.
  • Dust and vacuum regularly.
  • Steam clean carpets regularly.
  • If possible, replace carpets with hard flooring, such as vinyl, tile or wood; hard surface flooring contains high levels of VOCs, so consider certified low-VOC options.
  • Bathe pets regularly and limit their access to places where your child spends a lot of time.
  • Avoid cigarette and other types of smoke.

Manage environment, activities and emotions

If certain activities and emotions trigger your child's asthma:

  • Help your child recognize situations that may trigger symptoms.
  • Ask your child's doctor about the possibility of taking medication before physical activity.
  • Avoids strenuous outdoor activity when air pollution or pollen levels are high.
  • Cover your child's nose and mouth with a scarf on cold or windy days.
Feb. 20, 2014 See more Expert Answers