Asthma-Safe Homes

Asthma-Safe Homes

You want to feel good in your own home, right? If you have asthma, you can take steps to remove or minimize triggers at home. That way, they're not as likely to cause breathing problems and asthma flare-ups.

What Are Triggers?

Triggers are the things that can make your asthma worse — like pollen, mold, dust mites, and cigarette smoke. Triggers are usually harmless to people who don't have asthma. But if you do have asthma, they can cause coughing, wheezing, and shortness of breath.

People with asthma always have some swelling or irritation in their airways. Coming in contact with triggers can make this problem worse.

Asthma Triggers at Home

Because triggers are different for each person, you'll work with your doctor to figure out yours. If you think an allergy is triggering your asthma, talk to your doctor about getting allergy testing to find out what you might be allergic to.

Once you know what's making your asthma worse, you can work to get rid of that stuff at home. What you need to do depends on your triggers. Some people are affected only by animal dander. Others might have several triggers. It may take some time to figure out all your triggers and what to do about them.

The Air Indoors

The air in your house could contain irritants like tobacco or wood smoke, perfumes, aerosol sprays, cleaning products, and fumes from paint or cooking gas. All of these can trigger asthma flare-ups. Even scented candles are triggers for some people with asthma.

Air pollution, outdoor mold, and pollen are also common triggers that can travel inside, especially if you leave your windows and doors open in warmer weather.

To improve your air quality at home:

Dealing With Dust Mites

Dust mites are microscopic bugs that live in dust. There are lots of them in upholstered furniture, on some kinds of bedding, and in rugs. The highest number of dust mites in the home is usually found in bedrooms.

You won't be able to completely get rid of dust mites. But you can try these tips to reduce your contact with them:

Minimizing Mold

Molds are microscopic living things that are kind of like plants. They can grow on many surfaces and do especially well in damp places like bathrooms and basements. Molds reproduce by sending spores into the air. When people with asthma breathe these in, it can trigger breathing problems.

The key to controlling mold in your home is keeping things as dry as possible:

Coping With Cockroaches and Animals

Animal allergies are caused by a specific protein found in the animal's dander, saliva, urine, or feathers. Animal hair itself does not cause allergies, but it can collect dust mites, pollen, and mold. The droppings of animals that live in cages (like birds or gerbils) can attract mold and dust.

Pets aren't the only allergy-causing creatures at home: Cockroaches are a major asthma trigger that can be difficult to avoid in apartments.

If you have a pet and you're allergic to it, your best bet is to find it a good home somewhere else. Of course, that's not possible for some people. If that's the case for you, try taking these steps:

Fish aren't as cuddly as puppies and kittens, but they're OK pets for people with asthma.

If cockroaches are a problem:

Trigger Happy

It can seem overwhelming to make your home trigger free, especially if you have lots of triggers. Here are five steps to take to begin:

  1. Put mattress covers on your bed.
  2. Get rid of carpeting.
  3. Reduce dust.
  4. Get rid of any pest infestations.
  5. Ban tobacco smoke.

Reviewed by: Elana Pearl Ben-Joseph, MD
Date reviewed: January 2014

Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.

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Related Resources
OrganizationAmerican Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology The American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology offers up-to-date information and a find-an-allergist search tool.
OrganizationAmerican Lung Association The mission of this group is to prevent lung disease and promote lung health. Contact the group at: American Lung Association
61 Broadway, 6th Floor
NY, NY 10006
(212) 315-8700
Web SiteAIRNow A cross-agency U.S. government website, AIRNow provides useful air quality information, including daily Air Quality Index forecasts and details on conditions in more than 300 U.S. cities.
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