Prevent Allergies and Asthma Attacks at Home

The Basics

The Basics: Overview

If someone in your family has allergies or asthma, make your home a healthier place by getting rid of the things that can cause allergy symptoms or an asthma attack.

What can cause allergy symptoms or an asthma attack?

Things that can cause allergy symptoms are called allergens. Asthma attacks can be caused by irritants (things that can irritate the lungs) or allergens. Different people will react to different allergens and irritants.

Common causes of allergy symptoms and asthma attacks at home include:

  • Mold or dampness
  • Dust mites (tiny bugs that live in beds and carpets)
  • Pets with fur, including cats and dogs
  • Cockroaches (roaches and their droppings may cause asthma)
  • Mice, rats, and other rodents
  • Secondhand smoke
  • Wood smoke
  • Strong fragrances

Learn more about allergens and irritants.

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Take Action!

Take Action: Identify Triggers

Follow these steps to make your home a healthier place for people with allergies or asthma.

Find out what causes your allergy symptoms or asthma attacks.

If you or someone in your family has asthma, it’s important to figure out what can trigger (cause) an asthma attack. Asthma triggers can be different for different people. Learn more about asthma triggers.

Ask your doctor about getting an allergy test. This test can help you know what exactly is causing your allergies. Learn more about allergy testsExternal Link: You are leaving

When you know what you are allergic to – or what your asthma triggers are – you can take steps to get rid of or avoid those things in your home.

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Take Action: Clean the Bedroom

Keep allergens and irritants out of the bedroom.

  • Cover your mattresses and pillows in “dust proof” (or “allergen proof”) covers.
  • Wash all your bedding in very hot water (at least 130 °F) once a week. Go to a laundromat if the water in your home doesn’t get that hot.
  • Keep stuffed animals off the bed.
  • If you have pets that you are allergic to (like cats or dogs), keep them out of the bedroom.
  • If possible, remove all carpets. It’s easier to keep bare floors clean.
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Take Action: Prevent Mold

Control moisture to prevent mold.

Keep your home dry to prevent mold. Mold can start to grow in wet or damp places within just 1 or 2 days.

  • If you have a water leak, clean up the water right away. Fix the leak as soon as possible.
  • When you take a shower, run the bathroom fan or open the window for at least 20 minutes afterward.
  • Check the humidity level in your home with a moisture or humidity meter (available at a hardware store).
  • Use a de-humidifier or air conditioner to keep the humidity level in your home below 60 percent. A humidity level between 30 and 50 percent is best.

If you rent your home and there’s mold in it, you may be able to ask your landlord or property manager to clean up the mold. Check with your local county or state health department to learn more about your rights.

Get more tips on preventing and cleaning up mold.

What if the air in my home is too dry?

While moist (wet) air can lead to mold, dry air can be uncomfortable.

If the air in your home is dry in the winter, you can use a humidifier. Just be sure to still keep the humidity level between 30 and 50 percent.

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Take Action: Prevent Pests

Keep pests out of your home.

Rodents (mice and rats) and cockroaches can trigger allergy or asthma attacks if you are allergic to them. Take these steps to help prevent pests:

  • Fix leaks in sinks and toilets.
  • Put trays under your plants, radiators, and refrigerator. Check the trays for water and clean them often.
  • Store food (including pet food) in closed containers.
  • Clean up crumbs and spills right away.
  • Fill in cracks or holes that could be good indoor hiding places for pests.
  • Put screens in your windows and doors.
  • If you see roaches or rodents, call a pest control company.
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Take Action: Avoid Smoke

Make a no-smoking rule in your home.

Cigarette smoke, including secondhand smoke, can make asthma worse. And babies who live in homes where people smoke are at higher risk of developing asthma.

If you have guests who smoke, ask them to smoke outside. If you smoke, make a plan to quit today.

Avoid burning wood inside your home.

Breathing too much smoke from a wood-burning stove or fireplace can cause an asthma attack. If you can avoid it, don’t burn wood in your home.

If you need to use a wood stove or fireplace, check out these tips on how to reduce the smoke.

Talk to Your Doctor about Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm

If you are a man age 65 to 75 and have ever smoked, ask your doctor about getting screened (tested) for abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA).

Am I at risk for AAA?

Men over age 65 who have smoked at any point in their lives have the highest risk of AAA. Both men and women can have AAA, but it’s more common in men.

Risk factors for AAA include:

  • Family history – for example, if a parent or sibling had AAA
  • Smoking
  • Older age
  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol
  • Heart disease or vascular disease (problems with blood vessels)

What is AAA?

The aorta (“ay-OAR-tah”) is your body’s main artery. An artery is a blood vessel (or tube) that carries blood from your heart. The aorta carries blood from your heart to your abdomen, pelvis, and legs.

If the wall of your aorta is weak, it can swell like a balloon. This balloon-like swelling is called an aneurysm (“AN-yoor-izm”). AAA is an aneurysm that occurs in the part of the aorta running through the abdomen.

Why do I need to talk to the doctor?

Aneurysms usually grow slowly without any symptoms. When aneurysms grow large enough to rupture (burst), they can cause dangerous bleeding inside the body that can lead to death.

If AAA is found early, it can be treated before it bursts. That’s why it’s so important to talk to your doctor if you may be at risk.

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The Basics: Testing and Symptoms

How do I know if I have AAA?

To screen (test) for AAA, your doctor may order an ultrasound. An ultrasound uses sound waves to look inside the body. It can help your doctor see if there is any swelling of the aorta. Most types of ultrasounds are painless.

What are the symptoms of AAA?

There are usually no symptoms of AAA until it’s a medical emergency. Blood vessels like the aorta can swell up slowly over time, so it’s important to talk with your doctor about AAA to see if you need to get tested.

A ruptured aneurysm can cause dangerous bleeding that can lead to death. If this happens, you may suddenly have:

  • Pain in your lower back, abdomen, or legs
  • Nausea (feeling like you are going to throw up)
  • Vomiting (throwing up)
  • Clammy (sweaty) skin

You will need surgery right away.

What does AAA look like?

Here’s an example of what AAA looks like inside the body:

Illustration: Abdominal aortic aneurysm

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Take Action!

Take Action: Talk to Your Doctor

Take these steps to lower your risk for AAA.

Talk with your doctor about your risk for AAA.

Here are some questions you might want to ask your doctor or nurse:

  • Do I need to get screened for AAA?
  • How can I get help to quit smoking?
  • What are my blood pressure and cholesterol numbers?
  • What other steps can I take to keep my heart and blood vessels healthy?

What about the cost of screening?

Under the Affordable Care Act, the health care reform law passed in 2010, insurance plans must cover AAA screening for men ages 65 to 75 who have smoked. This means you may be able to get screened at no cost to you.

For information about other services covered under the Affordable Care Act, visit

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Take Action: Lower Your Risk

Make changes to lower your risk for AAA.

It’s never too late to take steps to lower your risk for AAA.

Quit smoking.

Quitting smoking is the most important thing you can do to lower your risk for AAA.

If you smoke, now is the time to quit. Call 1-800-QUIT-NOW (1-800-784-8669) for free support and help setting up a plan to quit.

Check your blood pressure.

Get your blood pressure checked. If your blood pressure is high, you can help lower it by getting active, watching your weight, and eating less sodium (salt).

Get your cholesterol checked.

Find out what your cholesterol levels are. If your cholesterol is high, start a heart-healthy eating plan. This means eating foods low in saturated fat, trans fat, and cholesterol. Find out more about eating healthy.

Aim for 2 hours and 30 minutes of physical activity every week. Check out these ways to add more activity to your day.