Managing asthma can be confusing. You may feel special some days but still cough, wheeze, or be short of breath on others — a concern that you might be doing something wrong. “If you’re plagued with asthma symptoms more than two times a week, speak to your doctor,” says Beth Miller, MD, chief of the division of allergy and immunology and director of the University of Kentucky Asthma, Allergy, and Sinus Clinics in Lexington. You might need to change your medication, revisit your asthma triggers, or stop making one of the following common mistakes.
1. You Use the Wrong Cleaning Products
A regular cleaning routine could be doing your asthma more harm than good if you’re using the wrong products. For instance, anyone with asthma should use a vacuum cleaner with a high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter to control the dust that’s kicked up during the cleaning process. Products that contain fragrances, like air fresheners, can be irritating, too. “If you have asthma, testing out new cleaning products isn’t for you,” Dr. Samuelson says.
2. You Didn’t Get a Flu Shot
“The problem with getting influenza is that it’s a respiratory disease,” Samuelson says, and the combination of a serious respiratory infection and the inflammation of asthma can lead to an exacerbation of symptoms on top of having the flu. Getting an annual flu shot — and the pneumonia vaccine when recommended — can boost your protection during the cold and flu season, he says.
3. You Have the Wrong Type of Pet
Allergy testing will let you know if pet dander is a trigger for you. The ACAAI suggests a weekly bath for pets and washing your hands after contact with a pet to reduce the allergic response. But in extreme situations, a pet might need a new home. If you’re considering a new pet, talk to your doctor about how to find one that doesn’t trigger your allergies. No matter what you decide about a pet and managing your allergies, keep pets out of the bedroom, Miller says.
4. You’re Sharing Your Home With Cockroaches
There’s a strong correlation between asthma symptoms and cockroaches, according to an analysis of house dust and health data published in December 2015 in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine. To get rid of cockroaches, you need a multi-pronged strategy: Seal leaks and cracks, don’t leave food, drinks, or dirty plates out overnight, and use cockroach traps, the ACAAI recommends.
5. You Only Take Your Asthma Medication When You ‘Need’ It
“Several persons with asthma tend to stop taking their controller medicine when they feel well,” says Wayne Samuelson, MD, an asthma specialist and a professor of medicine at the University of Utah School of Medicine in Salt Lake City. Make sure you understand which medication is the controller medication to take daily — even if you have no symptoms — and which is the rescue medication to be used in response to asthma symptoms.