Top Ways to Prevent Asthma

A variety of factors may play a role in triggering an asthma attack. Taking the right steps can help you stop asthma in its tracks.

Asthma is a complex disease. Researchers believe it occurs due to a combination of various genetic and environmental factors.

With so many potential factors that can lead to an asthma attack, taking steps to prevent one can be challenging. These strategies can help you keep an asthma attack at bay.

Breathing in something that triggers inflammation in your airways can lead to an asthma attack. These attacks are the result of airway inflammation, which leads to:

  • bronchospasm, or tightening of the airways
  • swelling of the lining of your airways
  • secretion of mucus

All of these factors cause the airways to become narrower and restrict airflow. The best way to prevent asthma attacks is to identify and avoid these triggers.

Air filtration system

Air filtration systems can help rid your home of common asthma triggers, including most:

  • mold
  • pollen
  • dust mites
  • other allergens

The best systems use high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters. These types of filters can clear the air of at least 99.7% of particles that are as small as 0.3 microns in size. This protects your lungs against common allergens such as pollen, mold, and dust mites, as well as pollutants like tobacco smoke.

Use air filtration in combination with other methods to control asthma triggers and your symptoms.

Humidifiers

Humidifiers increase the moisture level in the air by releasing water vapor. For some people, adding some moisture to the air can ease their asthma symptoms.

But use them carefully or they could make your asthma worse. If too much moisture is in the air, it can encourage dust mite growth. The American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology (AAAAI) recommends maintaining a humidity level between 40% to 50% to avoid this problem.

Clean your humidifier regularly to help avoid mold growth. It’s best to use distilled or demineralized water in your humidifier. High levels of minerals, as you might find in tap or bottled water, can lead to bacteria growth.

Immunotherapy is a type of exposure therapy for allergens that may trigger your asthma. Doctors or healthcare professionals usually offer immunotherapy for asthma in the form of allergy shots. These shots contain a small amount of the allergens that can trigger a person’s asthma.

The goal of immunotherapy is to alter your immune system response, making it less sensitive to these triggers over time. For the first few months, you’ll usually get injections one to two times each week. Eventually, you may get them once per month instead. This can go on for 3 to 5 years until your immune system is desensitized.

If you have trouble avoiding allergy triggers, talk with a doctor about whether immunotherapy may be an option for you.

Asthma medication usually falls into two categories. You’ll likely have medications that you take on a regular basis to prevent attacks. Another type of asthma medication is for quick relief. These medications treat an asthma attack but taking these when you first experience asthma symptoms is also key to preventing attacks.

Asthma medications may come in the form of:

  • an inhaler
  • a nebulizer, or a device that allows you to inhale medications as a mist
  • a pill
  • a liquid
  • an injection or infusion

A few of the more common preventive medications include the following:

Inhaled corticosteroids

These act like natural hormones and block inflammation. While steroids are the strongest drugs for asthma, their long-term side effects make them less appropriate for regular use.

Leukotriene modifiers

These medications work by blocking the formation of leukotrienes, which are substances your white blood cells release. Leukotrienes are involved in inflammation.

Beta-agonists

Beta-agonists, also known as bronchodilators, can prevent and treat asthma attacks by relaxing the muscles that control your airways. This allows you to breathe easier.

Biologics

These medications are prescribed as an add-on treatment for people with more severe asthma. Biologics work inside your body to target inflammation that otherwise can lead to tightening of your airways. They aim to stop your asthma symptoms at the source before they flare up.

It’s essential to track how well your asthma medications are working by testing your lung function regularly. You can use a handheld device called a peak flow meter to measure the amount of air flowing from your lungs. This test can reveal narrowing of your airways before your symptoms begin.

By comparing your peak flow measurements over time, you can figure out:

  • what triggers an asthma attack
  • when to stop a medication
  • when to add a medication
  • when to call 911 or local emergency services for emergency medical care

It’s recommended that everyone who has asthma work with a doctor to develop an asthma action plan. The plan will document important information such as your daily medications, how to handle asthma attacks, and how to control your asthma symptoms in the long term.

Most plans, including one you can print out from the American Academy of Allergy Asthma & Immunology, separate asthma symptoms into three color-coded categories, called zones. This approach can help you track the severity of your symptoms and know when to take relief medications or get help.

Green zone

The green zone means you’re doing well. You’re in the green zone if your peak flow is 80% to 100% of your personal best, or you have no asthma symptoms during the day or night. You’re able to perform casual activities.

Yellow zone

The yellow zone means you have worsening asthma. You’re in the yellow zone if your peak flow is 50% to 80% of your personal best or the following occurs:

  • You have symptoms such as coughing, wheezing, or difficulty breathing.
  • You’re able to perform some but not all normal daily activities.
  • You’re waking up at night due to asthma symptoms.
  • Your symptoms are the same or worse for 24 hours.

Red zone

If you’re in the red zone, call 911 or local emergency services and get medical help right away. You’re in the red zone if your peak flow is 50% or less than your personal best or the following occurs:

  • You’re extremely short of breath.
  • You’re unable to perform normal activities.
  • Quick-relief medications aren’t helping.

Get the answers to these common questions about preventing an asthma attack.

How can I reduce asthma naturally?

When you have asthma, it’s important to follow your treatment plan exactly as prescribed. Many complementary therapies are also widely used to help reduce asthma symptoms, such as:

  • meditation
  • music therapy
  • acupuncture
  • massage
  • yoga
  • tai chi
  • herbs and supplements
  • anti-inflammatory foods
  • probiotics, or “good” bacteria

These natural approaches are meant to be used in combination with your prescribed treatment plan. Talk with a doctor to get the green light before adding one of these approaches to your overall treatment plan.

How can I prevent asthma without an inhaler?

Taking your preventive asthma medications is the best way to prevent an asthma attack. But certain strategies may also help reduce your risk of an asthma flare-up. These include:

  • taking your maintenance asthma medications as prescribed
  • avoiding smoking and secondhand smoke
  • getting an annual flu shot
  • taking steps to reduce allergens in your home
  • finding ways to manage stress

What can you avoid to prevent asthma?

Taking steps to avoid asthma triggers can help prevent an asthma attack. Common triggers include:

  • air pollution
  • changes in weather
  • dust mites
  • exercise
  • infection (cold, flu)
  • intense emotions
  • mold
  • tobacco smoke
  • pests (cockroaches, mice)
  • pets
  • pollen
  • strong fumes

Asthma affects everyone differently. It’s important to identify your individual asthma triggers and take steps to avoid them.

Not all asthma attacks are preventable. But taking your medication as prescribed, identifying and avoiding your individual asthma triggers, and following up regularly with a doctor may help keep an attack at bay.

Additionally, it’s important to work with a doctor to develop an asthma action plan. That way you know when your asthma symptoms are worsening and what to do if an attack does occur.

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