Your Child's Asthma: Avoiding Triggers

How to stay away from asthma triggers

Many things can trigger an asthma flare-up. They include:

  • Upper respiratory infections, such as colds or flu

  • Allergies to dust mites, pollens, pets, mold, or cockroaches

  • Exercise

  • Irritants, such as cigarette smoke and other forms of smoke, strong odors and perfumes, fumes from wood stoves or kerosene heaters, and air pollution

  • Weather changes

The following are things you can do to limit your child's exposure to common asthma triggers.


Dust mites

The allergy is caused by microscopic, insect-like creatures called dust mites. Dust mites are normal and are found in mattresses, carpets, and upholstered furniture. They like warm, humid conditions. Pay special attention to your child's bedroom:

  • Mattress and box spring. Place all mattresses and box springs in a zippered, dust-proof cover. Tape over the zippers with electrical or duct tape.

  • Pillows. Use dust-proof covers on pillows. Pillows should be made of Dacron or other synthetic fiber. Don't use foam, feather, or down pillows.

  • Bedding. Don't use wool or down blankets. Wash all bedding (sheets, pillowcases, blankets) in hot water every 1 to 2 weeks. Cold water will not kill the dust mites. Dry all clothes and bedding in the dryer (not outside).

Beds. Every bed in your house should have a wooden or metal frame. Don't let your child sleep on a couch, sofa, or hide-a-bed.

Floor coverings. If possible, remove wall-to-wall carpeting. If not, vacuum the carpet often. Vacuum only when your child is away and won't return to the room for several hours after you have finished. Use a vacuum with a HEPA filter, if possible. Small, washable cotton rugs may be used if washed often. Wood, tile, or vinyl flooring without a rug is best. It should be mopped at least weekly.

Closets. Remove all stored toys, boxes, and extra items from closets. The closet should have only clothing in it. The closet should be as dust-free as the room. Keep all clothes in closets, never lying around the room.

Air conditioners. If possible, use a window unit or central air-conditioning. Change or clean all filters every month. Windows should be kept closed, especially in the spring and summer.

Doors. Keep bedroom closet doors and bedroom doors closed as much as possible.

Walls. Paint walls or use washable wallpaper. Don't put pennants, pictures, wreaths, flower arrangements, or other items that collect dust on the walls.

Window coverings. Don't use heavy curtains or blinds that can catch a lot of dust and are not easily cleaned. Use window shades instead. If curtains are used, wash them monthly in hot water.

Furniture. Remove all fabric-covered (upholstered) chairs, sofas, and other furniture from the bedroom. Replace these with wooden or plastic furniture if possible. Don't use open bookshelves. They also collect a lot of dust.

Sleeping and napping. Your child should nap or sleep in their own bed, which has been made dust-free. When your child travels or visits, they should bring a hypoallergenic pillow.

Playing. If your child has stuffed animals, they should be machine washable and washed in hot water. Or place them in the freezer overnight at least weekly. Store toys in a closed container. It is best not to sleep with stuffed animals. But if your child needs them to sleep, try to limit to one stuffed toy in the bed at a time. Store the rest for another day.


In many areas, pollen can be a problem from February through November each year. If your child is allergic to pollen, keep all car and house windows closed and use air conditioning during pollen season. Have your child bathe and change their clothes after playing outside.


Pets that have fur or feathers often cause allergy troubles. If your child is allergic to pets, it is best not to have pets. And don't visit homes where these types of pets are kept.

  • If you do have pets, keep them out of your child's bedroom. The pet should be brushed and bathed often by someone other than your child. And your child should try to not have a lot of contact with pets. If they do handle pets, make sure they wash their hands afterward.


Mold grows in areas that are dark, humid, and have poor ventilation:

  • Outdoors. Stay away from damp, shady areas. Remove fallen leaves from the yard.

  • Bathrooms and kitchens. Always use the exhaust fans when cooking or bathing. If you do see mold, clean the area with cleansers made with bleach. Keep your child out of the area while you use cleaning products. Air out the room using an exhaust fan.

  • In the house. Use the air conditioner. Don't use humidifiers, as mold can grow in the water tank. If you must use a humidifier, clean it according to manufacturer's instructions with a bleach and water solution. Reduce indoor humidity to less than 50%. Use a dehumidifier, if needed. Empty and clean the dehumidifier daily.

Cockroach droppings

Some people are very allergic to the substance cockroaches leave behind. Cockroaches are very common in warm climates and in city homes. But even in much cooler climates, using central heat allows the cockroaches to live. To prevent exposure to cockroaches, use roach traps or a professional exterminator.


Exercise is a common asthma trigger. But your child does not need to limit their participation in sports or other forms of exercise unless directed by their healthcare provider. Exercise is good for your child's overall health and lungs. Some forms of exercise, such as running long distances, may be harder for your child. Always make sure your child has a warm-up and cool-down period before and after exercise. Using a reliever medicine 15 to 20 minutes before starting exercise can be very helpful, as directed by your child's provider. Talk with your child's provider about exercise if this is a problem for your child.


  • Smoke. Don't allow family and friends to smoke anywhere inside the house. Don't allow smoking in the car at any time. Smoke is very irritating in an enclosed area. And its odor may be trapped in the car's upholstery for a long time and continue to trigger symptoms. You should also have nonsmoking child-care providers. Don't allow your child to smoke or use e-cigarettes. Talk with your child's healthcare provider if your child needs help quitting.

  • Strong perfumes and odors. Your child should not be around things that have a strong smell. These include cleaning products, perfumes, hair spray, tar, fresh paint, gasoline, insect sprays, and room deodorizers.

Ask your child's healthcare provider about any questions or concerns you may have about your child's asthma. 

Online Medical Reviewer: Deborah Pedersen MD
Online Medical Reviewer: Jessica Gotwals RN BSN MPH
Online Medical Reviewer: Rita Sather RN
Date Last Reviewed: 3/1/2023
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