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“Many asthma triggers are hiding in plain sight – in the bedroom, in common living spaces, the kitchen and bathrooms,” says Jill Heins Nesvold, the American Lung Associations’ national senior director, health systems-indoor air quality-asthma and COPD.
Before you can remove asthma triggers from your home, it’s important to understand what’s making a person’s asthma worse.
There are two main types of triggers: allergens and irritants.
“Allergens are specific to a person and cause an immune response in their body,” says Nesvold. “Irritants are things that aggravate the nose, lining of the nose, throat and the lungs.”
Some of the most common indoor allergens are:
Some of the more common indoor irritants are:
Other irritants can include:
Not everyone has the same asthma triggers. But you can work to find the most bothersome triggers in your home. An allergist, a doctor who specializes in treating allergies, can also help pinpoint triggers with allergy testing. Once you know which triggers are the worst and where they hide in your house, you can work to get rid of them.
Clear Your Home of Common Triggers
When you know what can trigger asthma, you can take steps to remove or reduce them from you daily environments. “Every room in your home can provide shelter to allergens,” Nesvold explains. “A careful room-by-room survey can help you knock out many of them.”
Ridding the bedroom of asthma triggers means the person with asthma can spend a great portion of the day – eight hours or more – in an allergen-free environment.
The most likely triggers here are dust mites and pets. Dust mites are tiny bugs too small to see. They’re often found in mattresses, pillows, bedding, carpets, upholstered furniture and stuffed toys. Many people with asthma are allergic to the droppings and body parts of dust mites.
To fight dust mites, think about places where dust collects, then clean those spots often. Here are some more tips:
The most common triggers in the living room are dust mites, pets, strong smells, wood smoke and tobacco smoke. If someone with asthma lives in your home, you should never smoke in the home. Limit or avoid the use of wood smoke and fireplaces, too. You can also take these steps:
Mold is a primary trigger in the bathroom. So are strong odors given off by hairspray, perfume, scented candles and air fresheners. To eliminate triggers in the bathroom:
Also, remember the bathroom is a place to wash off triggers. Some outdoor triggers can become indoor triggers. When kids play outside, they often bring pollen and ragweed inside. Make sure they take a bath and wash their hair before going to bed.
We don't want to think about pests in our homes, but in the kitchen, cockroaches can be a problem. Many people with asthma are allergic to cockroach droppings. Exposure to them can trigger asthma symptoms. To prevent pests:
Do you have a gas stove? If so, be aware that it releases nitrogen dioxide – which can bother some people with asthma. When you cook, use an exhaust fan.
“Getting rid of asthma triggers can seem like a huge job,” Nesvold admits. “Break it down into simple steps and take a slow, room-by-room approach. Even small steps will make a difference in the person with asthma.”
To learn more about Asthma and the Taking on Asthma initiative, visit our website.
Originally published 7/1/2016; Revised 2020, 2022
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