How to control things that make your asthma worse

You can help prevent asthma attacks by staying away from things that make your asthma worse.


Find out what makes your asthma worse. What makes asthma worse for some people may not be a problem for others, so figure out what works best for you. Start with things in your bedroom that bother your asthma. Try simple things first.

Avoid exposure to things that you are allergic to. Your doctor also may recommend that you avoid things that commonly cause allergies to try to keep you from becoming allergic to them.

Black dog on white bedspread

Animal Dander

Some people are allergic to the flakes of skin or dried saliva from animals with fur or feathers.

The best thing you can do is keep furred or feathered pets out of your home. If you can’t keep pets outdoors

  • Keep pets out of your bedroom and keep the bedroom door closed.
  • Cover the air vents in your bedroom with heavy material to filter the air.
  • Remove carpets and furniture covered with cloth from your home. If that is not possible, keep pets out of the rooms where these are.
  • If you anticipate exposure to indoor pets in someone else’s home, ask your doctor whether you need to take medicine before and during this exposure.

Dust Mites

Many people with asthma are allergic to dust mites. Dust mites are like tiny “bugs” you cannot see that live in cloth or carpet.

  • Encase your mattress in a special allergen-proof cover.
  • Encase your pillow in a special allergen-proof cover or wash the pillow each week in hot water. Water must be hotter than 130° F to kill the mites.
  • Wash the sheets and blankets on your bed each week in hot water.

Other things than can help

  • Reduce indoor humidity to less than 50 percent. Dehumidifiers or central air conditioners can do this.
  • Try not to sleep on lie on cloth-covered cushions or furniture or on carpeted floors.
  • Remove carpets from your bedroom and those laid on concrete, if you can.
  • Keep stuffed toys out of the bed or wash the toys weekly in hot water.

Tobacco Smoke

If you smoke, ask your doctor for ways to help you quit. Ask family members to quit smoking, too.

  • Do not allow smoking in your home or car or around you.
  • Be sure no one smokes at a child’s day care center.

Smoke, Strong Odors, Sprays

  • If possible, do not use a wood-burning stove, kerosene heater, or fireplace.
  • Try to stay away from strong odors and sprays. such as perfume, talcum powder, hair sprays, and paints.


Many people with asthma are allergic to the dried droppings and remains of cockroaches.

  • Keep all food out of your bedroom.
  • Keep food and garbage in closed containers (never leave food out)
  • Use poison baits, powders, gels, or paste (for example, boric acid). You can also use traps.
  • If a spray is used to kill roaches, stay out of the room until the odor goes away.

Vacuum Cleaning

  • Try to get someone else to vacuum for you once or twice a week, if you can.
  • Stay out of rooms while they are being vacuumed and for half an hour afterward.
  • If you vacuum, use a dust mask (from a hardware store), a double-layered or micro filter vacuum bag, or a vacuum cleaner with a HEPA fIlter.

Molds and Pollen

  • Fix leaky faucets, pipes, or other sources of water.
  • Clean moldy surfaces with a cleaner that has bleach in it.
  • Check under carpets for mold, especially if you have had a water spill on the carpet.
  • Keep your windows closed.
  • Stay indoors with windows closed during the midday and afternoon, if you can. Pollen and some mold spore counts are highest at that time.
  • Ask your doctor whether you need to take or increase anti-inflammatory medicine before your allergy season starts.

Exercise, Work, or Play

You should be able to be active without symptoms. See your doctor if you have asthma symptoms when you are active like when you exercise, do sports, play, or work hard.

  • Ask your doctor about taking medicine before you exercise to prevent symptoms.
  • Warm-up for about 6 to 10 minutes before you exercise.
  • Try not to work or play hard outside when the air pollution or pollen or mold spore counts (if you are allergic to these) are high.

Other things that can make asthma worse

  • Flu
    Get a flu shot each year.
  • Sulfites in food
    Do not drink beer or wine or eat shrimp, dried fruit, or processed potatoes if they cause asthma symptoms.
  • Cold air
    Cover your nose and mouth with a scarf on cold or windy days.
  • Other medicines
    Tell you doctor about all the medicines you may take. Include cold medicines, aspirin and ibuprofen, and even eye drops.