Making Your Home Asthma Safe

Making Your Home Asthma Safe

Making Your Home Asthma Safe

Home is where the heart is, but it’s also loaded with asthma triggers. 

“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: 

  • Pet dander 
  • Dust mites 
  • Mold 
  • Cockroaches 

Some of the more common indoor irritants are: 

  • Cigarette smoke 
  • Wood smoke 
  • Strong smells (from cleaning supplies, scented candles, perfume, etc.) 

Other irritants can include:

  • Colds or respiratory infections
  • Stress 
  • Laughing or crying hard 

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.” 

Bedroom 

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: 

  • Remove wall-to-wall carpet. If you can’t do that, vacuum at least once a week. 
  • Encase pillows, your mattress and box springs in special covers designed to keep out dust mitesleaving site icon
  • Wash bedding each week in hot water to kill dust mites. 
  • Remove or wash stuffed animals often. 
  • Use a damp rag when you dust to collect particles rather than move them around.  
  • Keep pets off the bed and out of the bedroom.   

Living room 

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:

  • Keep pets off of furniture so their dander doesn’t cling to the fabric. 
  • Avoid wall-to-wall carpet and heavy curtains. 
  • Don’t use scented candles or air fresheners of any kind. 
  • Vacuum, including upholstered furniture, and dust at least once a week. 

Bathroom 

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:

  • Turn on the bathroom fan when you take a shower or bath to help surfaces dry faster. If you don’t have a fan, be sure to clean bathroom surfaces, towels and shower curtains often. 
  • Avoid heavy perfume, lotions and body products. 
  • Use cleaning products without strong odors. Clean when the person with asthma is not home.  

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. 

Kitchen

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

  • Clean up any crumbs on the counter right away. 
  • Store food in airtight containers. 
  • Wash away grease on and around the stove. 

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

Sources: Asthma Basics, leaving site icon American Lung Association, 2022; Control Your Asthma and Allergy Triggers, leaving site icon Asthma, Allergy Foundation of America, 2022.

Originally published 7/1/2016; Revised 2020, 2022

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