Asthma triggers in the home
Part of avoiding health problems such as asthma, is to be sure your home is as free as possible of substances that trigger asthma. Common triggers include tobacco smoke, wood smoke, pets, cockroaches, rodents, mold, strong odors and fumes and dust mites. Following are suggestions for each of these triggers.
Triggers and their controls:
- Forbid smoking in your home. Ask family members and friends to smoke outdoors, or suggest that they quit.
- Avoid wood stoves and fireplaces.
- Keep pets out of the bedroom of anyone with asthma, by keeping the bedroom door closed. We spend hours on our pillows, they are not a good place for pets to be. Bathing pets weekly may help cut down pet saliva and dander. Almost all pets, including birds and hamsters can trigger asthma. Pet allergens may stay in house dust for months after the pet is gone.
- Keep your home cockroach and rodent free. Store food in sealed containers and keep crumbs and dirty dishes cleaned up. Get rid of roaches by fixing leaks, wiping up standing water and cleaning clutter. If treatment is necessary, use baits rather than foggers or sprays that may harm lungs. Cockroach and rodent droppings and dead roach parts settle in house dust and end up in the air you breathe.
- Control moisture. Molds grow on damp materials. Keep bathrooms, kitchens and basements clean, dry and well ventilated. Mold also forms on pillows and houseplants. Therefore, wash and dry pillows often and keep plants outdoors. Finally, reduce humidity to 30 to 50%, and use high efficiency particulate air filters and cleaners (HEPA).
- Avoid perfume, room deodorizers, cleaning chemicals, paint, and talcum powder.
- Cut down on dust mites. They are found in bedding, carpet and upholstered surfaces. Put pillows, mattresses, box springs, and comforters in allergen impermeable covers. Wash bedding, including pillowcases, every week in 130 degrees F water. Do not use aerosol spray cleaners; use damp cloths to clean surface dust rather than vacuum. Avoid lying on upholstered furniture and remove carpet, window draperies and stuffed animals from bedrooms.
For more information, contact your health care provider or your local Extension office, or 1-800-lungusa.
Reviewers: Elsa Keeler, MD
Richard Stone, 2006, 2010, 2014