Any number of things in the home can trigger an asthma attack or discomfort, forcing suffers to turn to inhalers or other medications for relief. But the best “treatment” for asthma sufferers is prevention, and the Environmental Protection Agency has identified nine common asthma triggers in the home and suggestions for how to combat them.
- Dust Mites – These tiny bugs are in every home, but without proper care they can irritate asthma sufferers. Washing bedding in hot water at least once per week and using dust proof covers on pillows and mattresses can help to alleviate allergy and asthma symptoms. Vacuuming carpets, drapes and upholstered furniture once a week using a HEPA vacuum cleaner will also cut down on dust mites.
- Mold – Molds love damp environments, unfortunately for many asthma sufferers mold can trigger an attack. Using soap and water to clean mold off of hard surfaces. In the bathroom, turn on exhaust fans or open a window when showering. Fix any leaks as soon as possible and dry any damp or wet things within 24 to 48 hours. Try to maintain indoor humidity levels between 30 and 50 percent.
- Cockroaches and pests –Nasty pests like cockroaches are common in urban areas an in the southern United States and their body parts and droppings can trigger symptoms in asthma sufferers. Keeping counters, sinks, tables and floors free of clutter can help to deter them from congregating. Clean dishes, spills and crumbs right away. Store food in airtight containers and seal all cracks around cabinets.
- Pets – Cats, dogs, hamsters and other family pets can, unfortunately, trigger asthma symptoms. For many, simply keeping the pet out of certain areas, such as upholstered furniture or bedrooms, can be sufficient. Otherwise, the primary line of defense is vigilant vacuuming of carpets, drapes and upholstered furniture. Using a special pet hair attachment will make the job easier, as will a pet grooming tool that helps reduce the amount of hair and dander that lingers about.
- Nitrogen Dioxide – NO2 is an odorless gas that can irritate the eyes, nose and throat and cause shortness of breath. Appliances in your home that burn gas, kerosene and wood are the most likely sources of NO2. When cooking on a gas burning stove or oven make sure to use a vent connected to the outdoors and never use the stove for heating. If using an unvented gas or kerosene space heater open a window for ventilation.
- Outdoor Air Pollution – Between pollen and pollution, going outdoors at the wrong time of year or time of day can be enough to trigger an attack. Asthma sufferers should watch the daily air quality indexes and plan their daily schedules around times when pollutants should be at their lowest. Close windows on high pollen days and use an air conditioner to filter it before it enters the home can also help. We also recommend a HEPA air purifier to clean the inside air of pollen and other particulates.
- Chemical Irritants – Chemical paints, cleaners, adhesives, pesticides, cosmetics, or air fresheners can irritate asthma sufferers or trigger an attack. Following all instructions on product labels and opening windows when using chemicals can help to alleviate symptoms.
- Secondhand Smoke –Secondhand smoke can trigger an asthma attack and even make symptoms worse over time. If there are smokers in your household, don’t let them smoke around asthmatics. Ideally, any smoking should be outside the home completely.
- Wood Smoke – Smoke from wood-burning stoves and fireplaces contain a mixture of harmful gases and small particles that can cause asthma attacks. To help reduce smoke, be sure the wood that has been dried completely. Have your stove or chimney professionally inspected at least once every year to be sure it is working correctly and free gaps, cracks and dangerous creosote.