How to decrease respiratory disease triggers


asthmatic woman
If you have had a cold or suffered from allergies, you know what it feels like to have trouble breathing. For women with respiratory diseases such as asthma, breathing troubles can become a permanent, rather than temporary, problem. If you have a respiratory disease, the right medical treatment—and learning how to manage your condition—can help you breathe easier.

Reducing your contact with triggers that can make your breathing problems worse is a must for managing your illness. Here are some things you can do:

Quit smoking. The best thing you can do for your overall health is to quit. Also, avoid secondhand smoke—only smoke-free environments will ensure your safety from tobacco chemicals that irritate your lungs.

Avoid breathing chemicals. Stay away from strong cleaning or chemical agents whenever possible or wear a mask and use them in well-aired spaces. Avoid dust, dry-cleaning and cosmetic chemicals, asbestos, coal dust, soot, paint and chemicals used in construction, and wood and furniture refinishing products.

Plan outdoor time carefully. Avoid being outdoors as much as possible during allergy season—spring and fall. Keep your house and car windows closed, and wash your clothes and vacuum once you come inside.

Watch when and where you get physical activity. Try to walk or be physically active early in the morning or later in the evening (before and after rush hour traffic). Fewer cars on the roads will help you avoid car fumes. Consider finding an area to be physically active that is less crowded but not so empty as to be unsafe. Another option is to be physically active indoors. Fitness equipment and indoor tracks, tennis, basketball, volleyball, and racquetball courts allow you to exercise without going outside. Being indoors also helps you control the air temperature so you can avoid cold, dry air. If you have exercise-induced asthma, you might start to have trouble breathing within 5 to 20 minutes after physical activity. Warming up with short bursts of activity might help relieve your asthma symptoms. Physical activity that involves only short bursts of activity or activity that you stop and start again, such as walking, volleyball, basketball, gymnastics, or baseball, tend to be better for people with exercise-induced asthma. Swimming is also good because you are breathing warm, moist air instead of cold, dry air. You can get medicine to take several minutes to an hour before you begin physical activity to prevent an asthma attack.

Manage stress and prevent panic attacks. Panic attacks brought on by stress can cause trouble breathing. Prevent panic attacks by managing stress: lighten your load, learn to say no, share tasks with coworkers or family members, make time for yourself, get enough sleep, and manage your time better. (See pages 208–210 of the Mental Health chapter for more information about stress.)


Prevent the flu and pneumonia by getting vaccinated. Influenza, or the flu, and pneumonia are respiratory infections that can cause serious problems in people with respiratory diseases. Getting flu and pneumonia shots can greatly reduce your risk of these problems.
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