Children with asthma have sensitive airways. Many things around them, known as triggers, can make their asthma worse. Triggers are different for each child. The pediatric asthma experts in the Children’s Hospital Colorado Asthma Program help you create a plan to manage asthma triggers so your child stays healthy and active.
Common asthma triggers in Colorado
Every child experiences asthma differently and can have multiple triggers for their asthma symptoms. It is important that you and your child are aware of their specific triggers and follow your doctor’s guidance for keeping asthma controlled.
Common asthma triggers in Colorado may include:
Colorado’s high desert terrain produces a very dry climate. Dryness impacts each child with asthma differently. If dry air triggers your child’s asthma, have them stay hydrated, especially on days when humidity is lower than usual. Drinking water regularly keeps the airways moist and can help prevent asthma from getting worse.
Any kind of smoke can trigger asthma. Smoke residue (third-hand smoke) can stay on surfaces like car seats and clothes for days. Try to keep your child away from all types of smoke including marijuana, e-cigarettes (vaping), cigars, cigarettes and campfires.
If family members or friends smoke, don’t allow them to smoke inside your home or car. Ask them to smoke outside and keep their cars and clothes free of smoke residue. If you smoke, make quitting a priority. Children’s Colorado offers a Smoking Cessation Clinic to support caregivers in reducing children’s exposure to smoke. Call 1-800-QUIT-NOW (1-800-784-8669) for more information.
Colorado’s highly wooded areas increase the risk of wildfires, and winds sweeping across the western United States can carry smoke for many miles. Use weather apps to monitor daily air pollution levels, especially during wildfires.
Keep your child indoors when pollution levels are high, especially during midday and rush hour, when pollution peaks. You should also avoid campfires, wood-burning stoves and fireplaces.
Read about the health effects of wildfire smoke and poor air quality on kids.
Kids with well-controlled asthma can live active lives and enjoy activities like skiing and hiking in Colorado’s mountains. Higher altitudes tend to have cooler air temperatures and reduced oxygen, which can make asthma worse. If these conditions trigger your child’s asthma, talk to your doctor before spending time at higher elevation or participating in activities like skiing, snowboarding or hiking.
Other asthma triggers
At Children’s Colorado, we thoroughly assess your child to identify their unique triggers and create a treatment plan. Other common triggers to avoid include:
Seasonal and Environmental Allergens
- Pollen and outdoor mold: During allergy season, keep your child’s bedroom windows closed. If your child is outside during high pollen seasons, have them shower and change clothes when they come in. Talk to your child’s asthma specialist about allergy medications and saline nasal rinses that may help reduce asthma symptoms.
- Indoor mold: Keep your bathrooms and kitchens clean and well-ventilated. Scrub mold with a sponge and bleach solution to kill it. Fix all water leaks and remove standing water.
- House dust: Bare floors are best. If you have carpet or rugs, vacuum often. Take down drapes and blinds when possible and reduce clutter. Put allergen-proof coverings on mattresses and box springs and wash stuffed toys and bedding in hot (130°F) water every week. Change furnace filters regularly.
- Animals: All furry and feathered animals can cause allergic reactions. Keep pets out of your child’s bedroom. Have your child wash their hands after playing with pets.
- Pests (Cockroaches, mice, rats): Put out bait traps or call a professional exterminator to get rid of pests. Don’t leave food or trash out in open areas of your home.
- Strong smells: Avoid air fresheners, perfume, cologne, room spray or hair spray.
- Illness: Monitor your child for asthma symptoms whenever they have a cold. Vaccinate your whole family against influenza every year.
- Weather changes: Have your child wear a clean scarf (or a pulled-up turtleneck) around their nose and mouth to help warm the air they breathe in.
- Exercise-induced asthma: Regular exercise and play is important for children. When asthma is well controlled, your child should not have activity limitations. Some children and adults find it helpful to pretreat with a quick-relief asthma inhaler before exercise.
- Strong emotions: Strong emotions like anger, crying, laughing or fear can trigger asthma symptoms. Teach your child relaxation and calming exercises and show them how to breathe slowly through their nose and breathe out using their lips.