Lifestyle and Natural Remedies

Asthma attacks can be triggered by substances in the environment, such as dust and mold. One person may have different asthma triggers than someone else. Keeping your home dry, clean, and pest-free can help limit exposures.

Lifestyle practices can also help improve symptoms. For example, some people find that yoga or breathing exercises reduce the severity of asthma. There is not yet proof that these practices work, so talk to your doctor before trying them.

How can I reduce exposure to asthma triggers at home?

Mold

Mold is a common fungus that causes breathing problems. Mold can blow inside through open doors, windows, and vents. It can then attach to surfaces and objects in your home.1

After people with mold allergies inhale mold, the immune system sees it as a threat. This causes an allergic reaction or asthma attack. Ways to limit your exposure to mold at home include:1

  • Use a dehumidifier to keep humidity low (below 50 percent)
  • Avoid using window fans
  • Use air conditioning instead of open windows
  • Ensure there is ventilation when cooking, cleaning, or showering
  • Clean bathrooms and other moldy areas with asthma-friendly cleaning products
  • Fix moisture sources and get rid of mold contamination
  • Keep surfaces dry

Dust

Dust contains substances that trigger asthma, such as dust mites. Dust mites are tiny pests that eat dead skin cells in dust and pet dander. Allergens in the droppings of dust mites trigger asthma.2,3

Reducing the amount of dust and dust mites in your home may help. Ways to reduce exposure to dust and dust mites include:2,3

  • Use furniture made of wood, plastic, leather, or vinyl that you can wipe clean
  • Use smaller washable rugs instead of large carpets
  • Replace heavy drapes and blinds with washable curtains
  • Remove items in bedrooms that collect dust
  • Mop hard floors, dust hard surfaces, and vacuum carpets at least once a week
  • Wear a mask while dusting
  • Steam-clean carpets to kill dust mites
  • Wash bedding in hot water once a week
  • Use allergen-proof covers on bedding

Smoke

Smoke is a common asthma trigger. If you or a loved one smokes, get help to quit. Until then, smoke outside instead of in the home or car. Use an air filter to remove smoke from indoor air.4

Pets

Many household pets can cause asthma attacks through their dander (skin flakes in their hair or fur). Proteins in your pet’s saliva attach to dander and trigger asthma. Talk to your doctor to see if pet allergies are causing your symptoms.4

It is possible to live with pets while preventing pet-related asthma. Talk to your pet’s veterinarian about managing pet-related asthma. Tips include:5,6

  • Vacuuming often
  • Grooming and bathing your pet often
  • Drugs that reduce allergens in your cat’s saliva
  • Shampoos that neutralize dander
  • Keeping pets from accessing your bedroom
  • Keeping pets outside
  • Feeding specialized food that reduces their allergen (available for cats)

You may find that living with a pet is not healthy for you. Talk to your veterinarian about finding your pet a new home.

Outdoor air quality

Particulate matter, ozone, and other air pollutants can trigger asthma. Pay attention to the Air Quality Index (AQI). Limit outdoor activities when there are unhealthy levels of mold or air pollutants. Wear a mask if you are outside on these days.4

Cockroaches

Cockroach allergens trigger symptoms of asthma, similar to dust mite allergens. Reducing dust and humidity can help limit exposure to cockroach allergens. Also, keep your kitchen clean by:4,7

  • Cleaning crumbs and spills from dining tables and kitchen counters
  • Washing dishes and countertops right after eating
  • Cleaning under large appliances where food gets trapped
  • Keeping food in closed containers
  • Storing trash in garbage cans with lids
  • Rinsing recyclables

Remove cockroaches using traps instead of pesticide sprays. If you use sprays, make sure there is fresh air circulation. Stay out of the room for several hours after spraying. You may consider hiring an exterminator.

What are other ways to improve symptoms of asthma?

Breathing exercises

Breathing exercises may relax the airway and improve breathing. Some research shows that breathing exercises improve quality of life and lung function for people with asthma. Ask your doctor to recommend exercises, such as:8

  • Pranayama (breathwork in yoga)
  • Buteyko (“Boo-TAY-Ko”) breathing method
  • Deep diaphragmatic breathing

Mindfulness meditation

Mindfulness is a type of meditation where you focus on your senses and feelings. It usually includes breathing methods, guided imagery, and gentle stretching. These practices may help reduce stress, which can improve asthma control.9

One study found that 2 months of mindfulness meditation improved asthma-related quality of life by reducing stress. More people were able to control their asthma afterwards.10

Other practices

Other practices may help improve asthma symptoms and quality of life by reducing stress. There is not yet much evidence that these practices work. Ask your doctor for advice about which may be helpful for you. Some practices to ask about include:11-14

  • Tai chi
  • Yoga
  • Acupuncture
  • Biofeedback

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Written by: Matt Zajac │Last reviewed: October 2021.