Health A-Z

Medical Content Created by the Faculty of the Harvard Medical School



Some asthma episodes can be prevented by avoiding or minimizing exposure to triggers.

These include environmental triggers such as:

  • Cigarette smoke

  • Environmental pollutants (especially when pollution and ozone levels are high)

  • Strong chemicals

If exercise triggers your asthma:

  • Breathe warm, humidified air before and during exercise

  • Use inhalers before exercise

Eliminating allergens at home often can go a long way to control asthma symptoms.

If dust mites are a trigger:

  • Encase mattresses in airtight enclosures

  • Clean your home frequently

  • Wash bedding frequently in very hot water

  • Remove carpets and heavy draperies from sleeping areas

Some people may need to avoid animals entirely. Others may benefit from taking preventive medicine before an anticipated exposure to animals. Pet owners should keep pets out of bedrooms and bathe them regularly.

Those who are affected by pollens should:

  • Stay indoors whenever possible

  • Use air conditioning

  • Keep windows closed during high pollen season

Prevention also means learning to anticipate future attacks. Monitor your symptoms and peak-flow readings to help identify a coming attack before symptoms develop. This allows you to adjust your medications to prevent an attack.

Early signs or symptoms of an asthma flare-up include:

  • Coughing more often

  • Increased mucus or phlegm

  • Becoming short of breath quickly with exertion or exercise

  • Developing a sinus headache or fever

  • Having symptoms that resemble a cold:

    • Runny or congested nose

    • Sneezing

    • Watery eyes

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From Health A-Z, Harvard Health Publications. Copyright 2007 by the President and Fellows of Harvard College. All rights reserved. Written permission is required to reproduce, in any manner, in whole or in part, the material contained herein. To make a reprint request, contact Harvard Health Publications. Used with permission of StayWell.

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