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Controlling Asthma Triggers: Irritants

Irritants are substances in the air that can trigger symptoms in some people with lung disease, like asthma or COPD. The following are some common irritants and tips to help you avoid them.

Woman wearing a mask and goggles, holding a power sander
Wear a mask when working around fine particles, like dust or residue from sanding.

Smoke (cigarettes, cigars, pipes, barbecues, and fireplaces)

Don’t smoke. And don’t let people smoke in your home or car.

When you travel, ask for nonsmoking rental cars and hotel rooms.

Avoid fireplaces and wood stoves. If you can’t, sit away from them. Make sure the smoke is directed outside.

Don’t burn incense or use candles.

Move away from smoky outdoor cooking grills.

Smog (car exhaust and other pollution)

Read or listen to local air quality reports. These let you know when air quality is poor.

Stay indoors as much as you can on smoggy days. If possible, use air conditioning instead of opening the windows.

In your car, set air conditioning to recirculate air, so less pollution gets in.

Strong Odors (air fresheners, deodorizers, or cleaning products; perfume, deodorant, or other beauty products; incense and candles; insect and other sprays)

Use scent-free products, such as scent-free deodorant or body lotion.

Avoid using products with bleach and ammonia for cleaning. Try making a cleaning solution with white vinegar, baking soda, or mild dish soap.

Use exhaust fans while cooking. Or, weather permitting, open a window.

Avoid perfumes, air fresheners, potpourri, and other scented products.

Other Irritants (dust, aerosol sprays, and fine powders)

Wear a mask while doing tasks like sanding, dusting, sweeping, and yardwork. Make sure any indoor work area is well-ventilated -- open doors and windows.

Use pump spray bottles instead of aerosols.

Pour liquid cleaners instead of spraying them. For example, instead of spraying a window with cleaner, pour some on a rag or cloth.

NOTE: If you have a quick-relief inhaler, carry it with you at all times. If you can’t avoid an area with irritants, watch for symptoms. If you have symptoms, leave the area and use your quick-relief inhaler as directed.

 

Online Medical Reviewer: Akin, Louise, RN
Online Medical Reviewer: Holloway, Beth, RN, M.Ed.
Last Review Date: 5/19/2014
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