Asthma is a serious, sometimes life-threatening chronic respiratory disease that affects the quality of life for almost 25 million Americans, including an estimated seven-million children. Although there is no cure for asthma yet, the condition can be controlled through medical treatment and careful management of environmental triggers, including household allergens and irritants.
According to the EPA, Americans, on average, spend approximately 90 percent of their time indoors where the concentrations of some pollutants are often 2 to 5 times higher than typical outdoor concentrations. Indoor allergens and irritants (like mold, dust mites, or smoke) can play a significant role in triggering asthma attacks. If you have asthma, you may react to just one trigger or to several. Once you have worked with your doctor or other medical professional to identify your triggers, the next step is to reduce your risk of exposure in your own home. Here are some of the most significant categories of indoor asthma triggers, and tactics for avoiding them:
Secondhand Tobacco Smoke
- Do not allow smoking of any kind indoors.
- If smoking is occurring outdoors near the house, make sure it is well away from open windows, ducts, and vents.
Smoke from Fireplaces
- Avoid wood fires.
- If a fire is the only source of heat, burn dry, seasoned hardwoods and only solid wood – not pressure-treated wood, particleboard, or plywood.
- Clean chimneys annually, and use wood stoves made after 1992 because they meet higher air quality standards.
- Keep relative humidity at 30-60%.
- Keep home well-ventilated – always use the bathroom fan during and for 20 minutes after showering and run the kitchen range hood exhaust fan while cooking.
- Fix leaks, drips and other water intrusions immediately.
Dust, Dander, and Mites
- Dust surfaces with a with a microfiber washable cloth.
- All solid surface flooring should be cleaned with a mop and a microfiber washable cloth or a HEPA vacuum fitted with a head or nozzle designed for bare floors. Surface cleaning with a broom or regular dry mop will disturb the dust, sending it into the air as you remove it. Depending on your personal sensitivity to dust, you may find that you need to clean smooth flooring more frequently than carpet because the dust is more readily visible and more easily disturbed into the air.
- If you have carpet you should be vacuuming 1-2 time a week (depending on pets) and preferably with a HEPA vacuum. Don’t forget areas under and behind furniture.
- Wash blankets, pillow covers, mattress pads weekly. Keep stuffed animals clean and dust-free too. The Hayward Score Stuffie Protocol has step-by-step instructions for stuffed animals.
- If you are sensitive to down or feathers, replace feathered bedding with hypo-allergenic materials. Avoid items treated with flame retardants or other chemicals.
Replace fabric curtains and upholstered furniture from the bedroom with non-fabric solutions.
- Keep pets outside as much as possible or keep them out of sleeping areas and off fabric-covered furniture.
- Wipe your pet’s paws before letting them inside – they can track in pollen and other allergens.
- Doormats at the entrances (one inside and outside) and removing shoes at the door is one of the top ways to prevent pollen and dust from entering your home.
Household Chemicals and Fragrances
- Use unscented, less-toxic, Safer Choice products – this includes laundry, cleaning, and personal care products (like soaps and body lotions).
- Avoid dry-cleaning clothes. If you do dry-clean, air clothes out before wearing.
- Skip all air fresheners – including scented candles, incense, aerosol sprays, and plug-ins
- Clean regularly, remove water sources and keep food in tightly sealed containers.
- Avoid chemical pesticides, especially indoors.
- Seal cracks where roaches and other pests can enter the home.
- Apply Integrated Pest Management (IPM) practices.
Asthma is a serious condition, and management of your home’s indoor air quality may help you in managing it.
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