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Asthma in Teens and Adults (cont.)

Prevention

Although there is no certain way to prevent asthma, you can take steps to reduce airway inflammationClick here to see an illustration. and the likelihood of asthma attacks.

Preventing asthma attacks

The main focus of prevention is to reduce the number, length, and severity of asthma attacks. By avoiding triggers, you may be able to prevent or reduce the severity of symptoms. For more information on identifying your triggers, see:

Click here to view an Actionset.Asthma: Identifying Your Triggers.

If you can predict or often have asthma attacks when you exercise, use your inhaler 10 minutes before you start the activity so you can avoid an attack.

The following is information about specific triggers. If you know that any of these cause your symptoms to become worse, you should avoid or limit your exposure to them.

Irritants in the air

Common irritants in the air, such as tobacco smoke and air pollution, can trigger asthma attacks in some people.

Controlling tobacco smoke is important because it is a major cause of asthma symptoms in children and adults. If you have asthma, try to avoid being around others who are smoking, and ask people not to smoke in your house.

  • Pregnant women who smoke cigarettes during pregnancy increase the risk of wheezing in their newborn babies.
  • Exposing young children to secondhand tobacco smoke increases the likelihood that they will develop asthma and increases the severity of symptoms if they already have the disease.

Some household cleaning products cause asthma symptoms or make them worse. If a cleaning product seems to trigger your asthma, stop using it or use another product that does not cause symptoms.

Consider staying inside when air pollution levels are high. Other irritants in the air (such as fumes from gas, oil, or kerosene or wood-burning stoves) can sometimes irritate the bronchial tubes, which carry air to the lungs. Avoiding these may decrease your asthma symptoms.

Allergens

If you are allergic to certain substances (allergens), you may decrease your asthma symptoms by limiting exposure to these substances.

To help reduce your exposure to allergens:

  • Control cockroaches, especially if you live in an area where cockroaches are common.
  • Control dust mites. House dust mites have been linked with the development of asthma in children.1
  • Control animal dander and pet allergens. If you know your pet is a trigger, you may need to think about giving it away. If that is too hard, taking steps such as keeping your pet out of your bedroom and dusting and vacuuming often may help your asthma.
  • Control indoor mold, especially if you live in an area with high humidity.

You may also need to avoid exposure to other types of triggers that cause asthma symptoms.

  • Get a flu vaccine every year. Have your family members get one too.
  • Get the pneumococcal vaccine. The vaccine may not prevent pneumonia, but it can prevent some of the serious complications of pneumonia.
  • Control your exposure to pollens in the air if you are allergic to them. Check your local weather report or newspaper for pollen counts in your area.
  • Avoid exercising outdoors in cold weather. The air may irritate your airways. If you are outdoors in cold weather, wear a scarf around your face and breathe through your nose.
  • Avoid foods that may cause asthma symptoms. Some people have symptoms after eating processed potatoes, shrimp, nuts, and dried fruit, or after drinking beer or wine. These foods and liquids contain sulfites, which may cause asthma symptoms.
  • Avoid taking aspirin, ibuprofen, or other similar medicines if they increase asthma symptoms. Consider using acetaminophen (Tylenol) instead. (Do not give aspirin to anyone younger than 20 because of the risk of Reye syndrome.)
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