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Controlling Asthma Triggers: Irritants

Irritants (air pollutants) are common triggers of symptoms for people with sensitive lungs. Anybody who has asthma or COPD needs to watch for these. But there’s more to air pollution than smoke and car exhaust. Identify which irritants are likely to affect you. Check off the tips that are most useful for you.

Image of woman entering a nonsmoking hotel room


Checkbox Smoke from cigarettes, cigars, pipes, barbecues, and fireplaces irritates your lungs.

Checkbox Don’t smoke. And don’t let people smoke in your home or car.

Checkbox When you travel, ask for nonsmoking rental cars and hotel rooms.

Checkbox Sit in the nonsmoking section when eating out.

Checkbox Avoid fireplaces and wood stoves. If you can’t, sit away from them. Make sure the smoke is directed outside.

Checkbox Don’t burn incense indoors.

Checkbox Move away from smoky outdoor cooking grills.


Vehicle exhaust and other air pollutants combine to create smog. This can be a trigger for symptoms.

Checkbox Read or listen to local air quality reports. These let you know when air quality is poor.

Checkbox Stay indoors as much as you can on smoggy days. If possible, use air conditioning instead of opening the windows.

Checkbox In your car, set air conditioning to recirculate air, so less pollution gets in.

Strong Odors

Strong odors from items such as room fresheners, perfume, mothballs, incense, deodorizers, and insect sprays can trigger symptoms.

Checkbox Use scent-free products, such as scent-free deodorant and lotion.

Checkbox Avoid using bleach and ammonia for cleaning. Instead, make a cleaning solution by mixing water with white vinegar or baking soda.

Checkbox Use exhaust fans while cooking. This helps reduce odors.

Checkbox Store clothes in boxes with lids. Don’t use mothballs or cedar chips.

Checkbox Avoid perfumes, air fresheners, potpourri, and other scented products.

Other Irritants

Dust, aerosol sprays, and fine powders can irritate your lungs.

Checkbox Wear a mask while doing tasks like sanding, dusting, sweeping, and yardwork.

Checkbox Use pump spray bottles instead of aerosol cans when possible. Make sure your work areas are well ventilated.

Checkbox Pour liquid cleaners instead of spraying them.

NOTE: If you have a quick-relief inhaler, carry it with you at all times. If you can’t avoid an area with irritants, watch for symptoms. If you have symptoms, leave the area and use your quick-relief inhaler as directed.

Author: StayWell Custom Communications
Last Annual Review Date: 1/1/2008
Copyright © The StayWell Company, LLC. except where otherwise noted.
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