What are the things asthmatic patient should avoid?

Asthma is a chronic lung condition that causes inflammation and narrowing of the airways, making breathing difficult. While there is no cure for asthma, it can be managed through proper treatment and by avoiding triggers that can cause asthma attacks or make symptoms worse. Knowing what to avoid is an important part of asthma management.


Allergens are substances that provoke an immune response in people who are allergic to them. Exposure to allergens is one of the most common asthma triggers. Things asthmatic patients should avoid include:

  • Dust mites – Microscopic bugs that live in bedding, carpets, stuffed toys, and fabric. Their droppings are an allergen.
  • Pet dander – Skin flakes, saliva, or urine from cats, dogs, small mammals, and birds.
  • Mold – Grows in damp areas like basements, bathrooms, and outside after heavy rain.
  • Pollen – Microscopic particles released by trees, grass, and weeds.
  • Cockroaches – Droppings and remains contain an allergen.

To avoid allergens:

  • Use allergen-proof bedding covers and frequently wash sheets in hot water.
  • Limit stuffed toys, carpet, and fabric in the bedroom. Clean floors with a vacuum with a HEPA filter.
  • Have pets stay out of the bedroom and bathe/groom them regularly.
  • Fix leaks, improve ventilation, and use a dehumidifier to reduce mold.
  • Close windows and use air conditioning when pollen counts are high.
  • Use traps and pesticides to control cockroaches.


Irritants are substances that inflame the airways when inhaled. They cause temporary asthma symptoms like coughing, wheezing, and chest tightness. Common irritants asthmatics should avoid include:

  • Tobacco smoke – From cigarettes, vaping, cigars, pipes etc. Secondhand smoke is also problematic.
  • Strong odors & chemical fumes – From cleaning products, paint, pesticides, air fresheners, perfumes etc.
  • Air pollution – Smog, ozone, particulate matter, sulfur dioxide, and nitrogen oxides.
  • Cold, dry air – Can trigger airway constriction and mucus production.
  • Smoke from burning wood, candles, or incense.
  • Sprays – Such as hairspray, aerosol deodorants, chemical sprays.

To reduce exposure to irritants:

  • Avoid secondhand smoke and ask smokers not to smoke around you.
  • Use cleaning and personal care products labeled “fragrance free.” Open windows and turn on fans when using irritants.
  • Limit time outdoors when pollution and pollen counts are high.
  • Wear a face mask outside if needed. Use air purifiers indoors.
  • Cover your nose and mouth with a scarf on cold, windy days.
  • Avoid burning candles, incense, wood fires and limit time around smoke.
  • Choose pump hairsprays and deodorants over aerosols.


Colds, sinus infections, influenza, pneumonia, and other respiratory infections can worsen asthma. The viruses and bacteria that cause them can inflame the airways. Things asthmatic patients should do to avoid infections include:

  • Get a flu shot every year.
  • Get any recommended pneumonia vaccines.
  • Wash hands frequently with soap and water.
  • Avoid close contact with anyone who is sick.
  • Disinfect frequently touched surfaces.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
  • Cover coughs and sneezes.


Rarely, foods can trigger asthma symptoms. Common culprits include:

  • Sulfites – Used as preservatives in dried fruit, processed potatoes, beer, wine, and some medications.
  • Food additives – Like tartrazine (FD&C yellow dye #5) and monosodium glutamate (MSG).
  • Salicylates – Naturally occurring in many fruits, veggies, spices, herbs, and flavorings.

If a food seems to consistently provoke symptoms, keep a food diary to identify triggers. Avoiding common allergens like peanuts, tree nuts, fish, and shellfish may also help some asthmatics.


The gastric acid that backs up into the throat during heartburn can irritate the airways and trigger asthma symptoms. Things that make heartburn and reflux more likely for asthmatics include:

  • Eating large, heavy meals
  • Eating late at night
  • Eating fried, spicy, or acidic foods
  • Drinking alcohol or caffeinated drinks
  • Being overweight

To avoid heartburn:

  • Eat smaller, lighter meals more frequently.
  • Avoid eating 2-3 hours before bed.
  • Limit problem foods and drinks.
  • Maintain a healthy weight.
  • Sleep with head elevated on pillows.
  • Take antacids as needed.

Extreme Weather

Weather changes like thunderstorms, high winds, and extreme cold or heat can sometimes trigger asthma symptoms:

  • Thunderstorms – Increase pollen and mold in the air.
  • High winds – Raise amounts of pollen and pollutants in the air.
  • Extreme cold – Can cause airways to constrict.
  • Extreme heat – Raises ozone pollution levels.

To help prevent weather-related asthma symptoms:

  • Stay indoors with windows closed during storms if you can.
  • Limit time outside during high winds or extreme cold and heat.
  • Watch weather forecasts so you can be prepared.
  • Have an emergency action plan and bring medications if you can’t avoid being outside.


Vigorous activity and exercise, especially in cold, dry air can trigger asthma symptoms. Avoidance isn’t necessary, but preventive measures can help:

  • Warm-up slowly and start activities at an easy pace.
  • Wear a scarf over your nose and mouth in cold weather.
  • Try breathing through your nose, which warms and humidifies inhaled air.
  • Use your daily long-term asthma control medication as prescribed.
  • Bring a quick-relief inhaler and use it as needed before and after exercise.
  • Stop activity and return home if symptoms occur.

Some Medications

Some medications, like aspirin and NSAIDs, beta blockers, and certain antibiotics can worsen asthma symptoms in susceptible people. Options to reduce risk include:

  • Take acetaminophen instead of aspirin or ibuprofen if needed for pain or fever.
  • Ask your doctor for an alternative antibiotic if one seems to worsen your asthma.
  • Request a non-beta blocker medication if needed for high blood pressure or migraines.
  • Tell all your healthcare providers you have asthma so they can prescribe safely.

Stress, Anger, and Strong Emotions

Psychological and emotional states like stress, anxiety, sadness, laughter, yelling, and crying can sometimes start an asthma attack. Ways to help avoid emotion-triggered symptoms include:

  • Learning relaxation techniques like deep breathing, meditation, or yoga.
  • Avoiding situations you find very emotionally upsetting when possible.
  • Expressing feelings in a calm way before they build up.
  • Talking to a counselor or therapist if emotions frequently affect your asthma.

Occupational Triggers

Asthma triggers at work can include dust, gases, fumes, chemicals, and materials like wood dust or animal dander. Strategies to reduce risk of occupational asthma include:

  • Use recommended protective gear like masks and respirators.
  • Improve ventilation at work through fans, hoods, and air filters.
  • Request an alternate work assignment away from triggers if possible.
  • Encourage enforcement of regulations limiting exposure to irritants.
  • Consult an occupational medicine specialist for advice tailored to your work.

Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD)

GERD can make asthma symptoms worse by irritating the airways with stomach acid. Ways for asthmatics to reduce reflux include:

  • Avoiding foods that can relax the lower esophageal sphincter, like coffee, chocolate, alcohol, and high-fat foods
  • Not eating 2-3 hours before lying down
  • Avoiding tight clothing
  • Achieving or maintaining a healthy weight
  • Elevating the head while sleeping
  • Managing stress
  • Quitting smoking

Over-the-counter or prescription medications that reduce stomach acid may also help.

Obstructive Sleep Apnea

Obstructive sleep apnea, which causes breathing to stop temporarily during sleep, is more common in asthmatics and can worsen asthma. Treatment strategies include:

  • Losing weight if overweight
  • Avoiding alcohol close to bedtime
  • Sleeping on your side instead of back
  • Using a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) device
  • Considering corrective surgery if anatomical issues cause apnea

Rhinitis and Sinusitis

Chronic inflammation or infection in the nasal passages and sinuses can aggravate asthma. Preventing and treating these conditions may help by:

  • Avoiding triggers that worsen allergies and sinus problems, like dust mites, pet dander, pollen, and mold.
  • Using prescription nasal sprays to reduce inflammation.
  • Trying over-the-counter saline rinses to clear nasal passages.
  • Taking antibiotics or using nasal steroid sprays as directed for sinus infections.
  • Using a humidifier at home and work.


Identifying and avoiding your unique asthma triggers is key to keeping symptoms under control. Some triggers like allergens and irritants are common to many asthma patients, while others like certain foods, weather changes, infections, and emotions are more individual. Noticing patterns in your symptoms and their causes can reveal your own sensitivities. Being prepared to avoid triggers or manage your asthma when exposed to unavoidable ones also reduces the risk of attacks.

Work closely with your doctor to determine your triggers and discuss ways to prevent or handle exposure to them. Asthma action plans you create together will include instructions on monitoring symptoms, adjusting medications, and handling worsening asthma when triggers can’t be avoided. With vigilance and preparation, asthmatics can often live full, active lives despite their condition.

Leave a Comment