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“Many asthma triggers are hiding in plain sight—in the bedroom, in the common living spaces, the kitchen and the bathrooms,” says Jill Heins, senior regional director of Respiratory Health for the American Lung Association of the Upper Midwest.
Before you can remove asthma triggers from your home, it is important to understand what is making a person’s asthma worse.
There are two main types of triggers: allergens and irritants.
“Allergens are specific to that person and cause an immune response,” says Heins. “Irritants are things that irritate the nose, lining of the nose, the 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.
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 in the bedroom are dust mites and pets. Dust mites are tiny bugs too small to see. They are 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 dust where collects, then clean those spots often. Heins’ tips:
Living room The most common triggers in the living room are dust mites, pets, strong smells, wood smoke and tobacco smoke, Heins says.
“If you have somebody with asthma living in the home, you should never smoke in the home,” she says. “Also, limit or eliminate the use of wood smoke and fireplaces in the home.”
To reduce other triggers, Heins recommends:
Bathroom The primary triggers in the bathroom are mold and strong odors, such as hairspray, perfume, scented candles and air fresheners. Heins’ advice for reducing asthma triggers in the bathroom:
Also remember the bathroom is a place to wash off triggers. “There are some outdoor triggers that can become indoor triggers,” Heins explains. “When kids play outside, they can bring pollen and ragweed inside as well. So 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, we need to think about cockroaches,” Heins says. Many people with asthma are allergic to cockroach droppings, and exposure to cockroaches can trigger asthma symptoms.
To prevent pests and reduce this trigger in the kitchen, Heins suggests:
Have a gas stove? Know 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. Heins says to 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,” she says.
Originally published: 7/1/2016, Revised 2020
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