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Asthma Basics

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Dealing With Triggers: Pollen

A variety of things in the environment can make asthma or allergy symptoms worse. These are called "triggers." Your doctor can help you figure out what your child's triggers are.

Pollen is a common trigger for many kids.

What Is Pollen?

Pollen is a fine powder that some plants make when they reproduce. During the spring, summer, and fall seasons, pollen is released into the air and picked up by the wind, which brings it to other plants to fertilize them.

Inside of these pollen grains are proteins that cause allergic reactions (such as sneezing, runny nose, and itchy eyes) when breathed in. The pollen that most people are allergic to comes from grasses, trees, and weeds.

How Can I Help My Child Deal With It?

  • Your weather forecast will give a daily pollen report. When pollen counts are high, kids should take their allergy medicine before going outdoors or avoid going outside. After playing outdoors, they should bathe and change clothes.
  • Keep windows and doors shut during pollen season.
  • Drive with the car windows shut and air conditioning on during pollen season.
  • Avoid letting your child mow the grass or rake leaves. If your child does work or chores outdoors, wearing an air filter mask can prevent pollen inhalation.

Reviewed by: Stephen F. Dinetz, MD

Date reviewed: November 2017

Dealing With Triggers: Mold

A variety of things in the environment can make asthma or allergy symptoms worse. These are called "triggers." Your doctor can help you figure out what your child's triggers are.

Mold is a common trigger for many kids.

What Is Mold?

Mold is a microscopic plant-like organism. It can grow on many surfaces, and prefers damp places like bathrooms and basements. Mold reproduces by sending spores into the air. 

How Can I Help My Child Deal With It?

  • Fix leaky pipes, faucets, or roofs. Clean and repair roof gutters regularly.
  • Make sure your bathrooms and basement are well ventilated. Install and use exhaust fans to help lower moisture in these areas.
  • If you have any damp closets, clean them well and leave a 100-watt bulb on all the time to increase the temperature and dry out the air.
  • Run a dehumidifier in the basement or other damp areas. Empty and clean the water pan often.
  • Remove wallpaper and wall-to-wall carpeting from bathrooms and basement rooms.
  • Run the air conditioning (this is especially helpful if you have central air), making sure to change the filter monthly.
  • Avoid houseplants, which may harbor mold in their soil.
  • Clean any visible mold or mildew with a solution that's 1 part chlorine bleach to 10 parts water. Don't paint or caulk over moldy surfaces without cleaning them first.
  • When painting bathrooms or other damp areas of your house, use anti-mildew paint.
  • If there's visible mold on ceiling tiles, remove and replace them. Also check to see if there's a leaky pipe that may be causing the problem.
  • Replace or wash moldy shower curtains.
  • When mold counts are high, kids should take their allergy medicine before going outdoors. After playing outdoors, they should bathe and change clothes.
  • Drive with the car windows shut and air conditioning on during mold seasons.

Reviewed by: Stephen F. Dinetz, MD

Date reviewed: November 2017

Dealing With Triggers: Dust Mites

A variety of things in the environment can make asthma or allergy symptoms worse. These are called "triggers." Your doctor can help you figure out what your child's triggers are.

Dust mites are a common trigger for many kids.

What Are Dust Mites?

Dust mites are microscopic bugs that live in household dust. They eat skin cells that people shed. They're especially plentiful in upholstered furniture, on some kinds of bedding, and in rugs. The highest concentration of dust mites in the home is usually in bedrooms.

How Can I Help My Child Deal With Them?

  • Vacuum and dust your home (especially your child's bedroom) often — at least once a week. Use a special small-pore filter bag on your vacuum or buy a vacuum with a HEPA filter. When you dust, use a damp cloth to avoid spreading dust mite particles in the air.
  • Avoid feather or down pillows or comforters; choose bedding made with synthetic materials instead.
  • Wash or change sheets weekly. Every few weeks, wash all of your child's bedding in hot water (higher than 130ºF or 54.4ºC) and dry it on a high setting.
  • Cover mattresses, pillows, and box springs with mite-proof covers (available at many large retail stores and also online). Be sure to regularly wipe down the covers.
  • Remove any carpeting, especially wall-to-wall carpeting, from your child's bedroom and other spaces where he or she spends a lot of time.
  • If you have area rugs, make sure they're washable and clean them weekly in hot water.
  • Make sure window coverings in your child's room can be washed or cleaned easily. Stay away from blinds, which have lots of horizontal surfaces that catch dust, or fancy curtains with lots of folds, which have to be dry cleaned. Wash all window coverings regularly.
  • Avoid upholstered furniture and pillows.
  • Clean up clutter. Clear away knickknacks, picture frames, and plants that collect dust.
  • Store most of your child's books in a room other than his or her bedroom or playroom.
  • Keep your child's collection of stuffed animals to a minimum. Any plush toys that your little one just can't live without should be washed often in hot water (if they don't contain batteries) and then dried on your dryer's highest setting. You also can seal these toys in a plastic bag and put them in the freezer for at least 5 hours or overnight (dust mites can't survive more than 5 hours of freezing temperatures).
  • Avoid using a humidifier, especially in your child's bedroom.
  • Run a dehumidifier in the basement or other damp areas of your home. Empty and clean the water pan often.

Reviewed by: Stephen F. Dinetz, MD

Date reviewed: November 2017