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Can Asthma Attacks Be Prevented?

Asthma experts are currently working to dispel many myths about asthma. For instance, it was once thought that increasing fluid intake would lessen mucus production and therefore lessen the frequency and severity of asthma attacks. But drinking lots of water does not affect asthma (although drinking a lot of water is a good idea for maintaining general health).

Breathing into a paper bag is also a bad idea for someone with an asthma attack. Persons with asthma should avoid over-the-counter medications advertised to treat asthma.

Depending on the triggers associated with asthma attacks, patients can sometimes avoid attacks by taking certain preventive steps. If allergens such as dust and pollen trigger an attack, asthma can be avoided by doing the following:

  1. Avoid being outside during the early morning and late afternoon hours, when pollen levels are highest.
  2. Since dust has been associated with asthma attacks, thoroughly and frequently clean the indoor environment. Dust and vacuum every day. Wash bed linens in hot, soapy water every few days. Replace air filters in air conditioners and furnaces regularly.
  3. During hot weather, use air conditioning.

Eliminating the irritant is the key. If asthma is brought on by cigarette smoke, the patient must avoid this irritant. If asthma is brought on by exercise, the person should try to find a level of exertion that is comfortable. Using an inhaled bronchodilator before exercising may also control asthma symptoms.

For all persons with asthma, communication with and regular visits to their physicians are essential components of treatment. Without periodic check-ups, the physician cannot monitor progress or potential worsening of symptoms. Thus, the most important aspect of prevention and treatment for asthma patients is the regular physician visit.



Adams, Francis V., MD. The Asthma Sourcebook: Everything You Need to Know. 2nd ed. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1998.

Lavy, M., Hilton, S., Barnes, G. Asthma at Your Fingertips, 3rd ed. London: Class Publishing, 2000.


Spilner, Maggie. "Get Off the Asthma Tightrope." Prevention 46, no. 9 (September 1994): 88.


American Lung Association. 61 Broadway, 6th Floor New York, New York 10006. 1–800–LUNG–USA (1–800–586–4872).) Asthma Website [cited October 16, 2002]. <www.lungusa.org/asthma>.

National Asthma Education Program, Expert Panel. Executive Summary: Guidelines for the Diagnosis and Management of Asthma. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Public Health Service, National Institutes of Health, 1997.

Kathleen Scogna


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—The smallest diameter air tubes, branching off of the bronchi, and ending in the alveoli (air sacs).


—A drug, either inhaled or taken orally, that dilates the lung airways by relaxing the chest muscles.

Bronchus (plural, bronchi)

—One of the two main airway tubes that branch off from the windpipe and lead to each lung.


—The characteristic sound of asthma; it results when a person tries to push air in and out of narrowed airways.

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