spraying cleaner on a cleaning rag

Changing My Habits To Avoid Environmental Asthma Triggers

Before I began dating someone with asthma, I did not have much experience with it. I knew a few people in elementary school who had it, and one of my friends with asthma had to frequently sit out in P.E. All I knew was asthma affected the lungs and made running difficult. As someone who ran long-distance and played soccer growing up, I never even had to think twice about breathing.

Educating for awareness

When I started dating my partner, who has asthma, I felt uneducated and ignorant about it. I quickly learned how an inhaler worked and also learned that an expired inhaler can be ineffective. I had never heard of a nebulizer until he had to use one in an emergency travel situation. Just like getting to know someone when you start dating, I got to know his triggers and management plan.

As I started to educate myself about his asthma, I began to make changes to some of my daily habits that could be an environmental trigger for him. Asthma flare-ups are uncomfortable enough, so I want to do whatever I can to make him more comfortable. These are some of the habits that I became mindful of and changed accordingly to accommodate my partner.

Mindfulness regarding environmental asthma triggers

Burning sage or incense

I am a yoga instructor, so burning sage and incense has been part of my daily practice for the past few years. I love the earthy smell of smoke, and the calming sensation it brings me. My boyfriend, on the other hand, does not have the same experience. He does enjoy the smell of sage, but sometimes the smoke can be a trigger for him. If we are in a smaller room, or the weather is hot, this can intensify the effect of smoke on his lungs. If he is already flared up, I know to not burn sage or incense.


I absolutely adore cats with all of my heart; unfortunately, my boyfriend does not. It’s not that he actually hates cats, but he has been put in the hospital several times due to his cat allergy. I would imagine it would be difficult to love something that has put you in the hospital so many times. As a child, his allergies were more extreme and he could not be near cats, or even be next to someone who had cat hair on their clothing.

This has been one of the more difficult habits of mine to change. Several of my friends have cats, and I always love to cuddle up with them. If a cat approaches me on the street, I don’t think twice about petting it. My partner’s allergies are less severe now as an adult, but if I  pet a cat I make sure I wash my hands and arms thoroughly. If a cat has brushed up against me or laid on top of me, I make sure to change my clothes. If I am with my partner and he is already flared up, I will try to avoid touching cats at all.

Cigarette smoke

When my partner and I walk through a city, cigarette smokers are quite a common occurrence and this is the worst trigger for him. If there is someone walking or standing with a cigarette nearby, we try to speed up to pass them, or step aside and wait for them to pass. Cigarette smoke in close proximity can also be exacerbated by high temperatures, and intensify this environmental asthma trigger for him.

While driving with the windows down, I pay attention at red lights to make sure no one is smoking next to us. The cigarette smoke can waft through our car window and linger in the car. If this is the case, I roll up the windows and turn on the A/C.

Cleaning spray

I have never been one to use heavy chemical cleaners in the house. Strong cleaning sprays and artificial fragrances have always been bothersome for me and can even cause me to get headaches. I try to only use cleaners that are unscented or scented with some type of essential oil. This works out well because my partner is also sensitive to cleaning sprays.

Even though I do not use a harsh cleaner with strong artificial fragrance, I am still conscious of how I use it. I try to not spray it directly onto a counter or window, but rather spray it first on the rag I am using to clean with. This ensures that there are less particles floating around in the air that my partner could potentially inhale.

On a daily basis

One of the best things you can do for your significant other, family member, or friend with asthma is to simply ask questions. Get to know their triggers, and learn their plan for managing asthma. Know where they keep their inhaler, and remind them to bring it with them. Make sure they are okay with what fragrances and cleaners you use. Know what their allergies are, and what can trigger an asthma attack.

Changing my daily habits for my partner’s asthma has not been an inconvenience. It has made me a more mindful person and caused me to pay attention to what products I use, the environment we're in, and my actions. I have moments where I feel guilty for petting a cat or using too much essential oil, but he reassures me that I am doing the best I can. I try every day to educate myself and put in an effort to be a supportive partner.

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This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The Asthma.net team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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